United States oldest aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise
Source: Press TV
The United States’ oldest aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, and its strike group are running naval drills, which seem to indicate potential conflict with Iran, off the US East coast ahead of being deployed to the Persian Gulf.
The drill map, referring to Florida shores as "The Treasure Coast," depicts nine countries, two of which - Garnet and North Garnet, are identified as 'fundamentalist Islamic theocracies' suspected of supporting terror groups, Russia Today reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, the drill map also depicts a 56-km (35-mile) wide strait located some 320 km (200 miles) from the coast. The mock strait’s shape and width is identical to the Strait of Hormuz - the Persian Gulf’s key oil shipping route, part of which is controlled by Iran.
US military officials have denied the maneuvers being connected with escalated tensions around Iran, saying the strike group is "training for all the mission areas."
However, Rear Admiral Dennis Fitzpatrick, commander of Strike Force Training Atlantic, told The Navy Times that "there obviously is an emphasis on where we think the ship will go."
The 50-year-old aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which leads the naval exercise, is to join two other US strike groups in the Persian Gulf by March. This will be the final deployment for the oldest carrier in Washington's fleet.
Meanwhile, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has launched ground drills near the Strait of Hormuz, which is used to transmit nearly a third of global oil exports.
Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz if the US and the EU, actually enforce their unilateral sanctions against the country’s oil and financial sectors to prevent Iran from exporting its crude oil and make Tehran give up its peaceful nuclear program.
On Tuesday, January 3, commander of Iran's Army Major General Ataollah Salehi warned the US aircraft carrier, USS John C. Stennis, not to return to the Persian Gulf after it left the region.
“We recommend and warn the aircraft carrier not to return to its previous position in the Persian Gulf, since we are not in the habit of repeating a warning and we warn only once,” the general added.