Source: Press TV
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has vowed to maintain a fleet of eleven warships despite budget pressures, mostly to project sea power against Iran.
On board of the oldest US aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, Panetta told the crowd of 1,700 sailors that the 50-year-old ship is heading to the Persian Gulf region in a direct message to Tehran.
“The reason we maintain a presence in the Middle East ... We want them to know that we are fully prepared to deal with any contingency and it's better for them to try to deal with us through diplomacy," Panetta said.
The USS Enterprise is the oldest active duty ship in the American naval fleet and its mission dates back to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and the Vietnam War.
The decision to maintain 11 warships comes at a time when the US economy is facing a national debt of more than USD 15 trillion after a decade of costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and is preparing for 487 billion dollars in defense cuts over the next 10 years.
On January 5, US President Barack Obama announced the shift in Washington's defense strategy to reduce the expenses. The eight-page document contained no details about how broad concepts for reshaping the military - such as focusing more on Asia and less on Europe - will translate into troop or weapons cuts.
Iran has warned the West of the possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz, where one-fifth of the world's oil shipments pass.
Iran threats were issued in response to aggressive military build-up, covert war operations and proposed sanctions against the Iranian oil sector, coming from the US and its allies.