Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, right, and Pentagon Spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby brief the press at the Pentagon, January 11, 2012. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)
WASHINGTON (January 11, 2012) — Pentagon officials said today they believe tensions between the United States and Iran have cooled in recent days.
Meeting with reporters, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the United States has been very clear “that we seek to lower the temperature on tensions with Iran, and we think that things have calmed down a bit in recent days.”
Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, said the presence of two U.S. carrier groups in the U.S. Central Command area of operations is just “prudent force posture requirements set by the combatant commander,” and is nothing out of the ordinary.
The two carrier groups in the 5th Fleet region continue the nearly constant U.S. naval deployments to the region since World War II, Kirby noted. “That presence changes all the time,” he said. “It fluctuates based on needs and requirements set by the combatant commander and approved by the Joint Staff and the secretary of defense.”
The presence of the two carriers is not tied to recent strains with Iran, the captain said, pointing out that it takes months for a battle group to train up and deploy.
“I don’t want to leave anybody with the impression that … we’re somehow ‘zorching’ two carriers over there because we’re concerned about what happened … today in Iran,” he said. “It’s just not the case.” Iranian media reported that a scientist from a uranium enrichment plant and his bodyguard were killed today in Tehran.
The fact that two carriers are in the region is not an indication of any specific trouble with respect to Iran, Kirby said.
Neither carrier group is inside the Strait of Hormuz, Kirby told reporters. The strait is an international waterway and a key sea lane for the oil of the Middle East to reach customers around the world.
“It’s a key chokepoint,” he said. “And the United States Navy has and will continue to remain a force in that region to help protect the free flow of commerce in international waters.”
Kirby acknowledged that Iran could use access-denial capabilities to close the waterway temporarily, noting that Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said as much Jan. 8 on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” But he emphasized that any such closure would be of short duration.
“We’re very comfortable with the capabilities that we have and we maintain, and the partnerships and the commitments we have in the region,” the captain said. “We’re very comfortable that we will be able to meet those requirements and those commitments.”