aircraft carrier (probably USS John C. Stennis) 'spotted' in Iran wargames
US aircraft carrier entered a zone near the Strait of Hormuz being used
by the Iranian navy for wargames, an Iranian official said Thursday
amid rising tensions over the key oil-transit channel. "A US aircraft
carrier was spotted inside the manoeuvre zone... by a navy reconnaissance
aircraft," Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi, the spokesman for the Iranian
exercises, told the official IRNA news agency.
The Iranian aircraft took video and photos of the US vessel, he added.
The US aircraft carrier was believed to the USS John C. Stennis,
one of the US navy's biggest warships.
US officials announced Wednesday that the ship and its accompanying
battle group moved through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch at
the entrance to the Gulf that is the world's most important choke point
for oil shipments.
After warnings from the Iranian government and navy this week that Iran
could close the strait if threatened by further Western sanctions, the
US Defence Department warned Wednesday that such actions "will
not be tolerated."
C. Stennis CVN 74
(picture: US Navy)
The United States maintains
a navy presence in the Gulf in large part to ensure oil traffic there
Iran, which is already subject to several rounds of sanctions over its
nuclear programme, has repeatedly said it could target the Strait of Hormuz
if attacked or its economy is strangled.
Such a move could cause havoc in the world oil market, disrupting the
fragile global economy.
The Islamic republic is halfway through 10 days of navy exercises in international
waters to the east of the strait that have reportedly included the laying
of mines and the use of aerial drones.
So far, Iran and the United States have limited themselves to rhetoric
and naval manoeuvres. But analysts and the oil market are watching the
situation carefully, fearing a spark that could ignite open confrontation
between the longtime foes.
The United States had proposed a military hotline between Tehran and Washington
to defuse any "miscalculations" that could occur as their navies
brush against each other. But Iran in September rejected that offer.