US official: Reports of Iran blockade are false

Defense official tells 'Post' that current ship movements in Gulf are simply "routine rotation."

US navy 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
US navy 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Reports that a large American, British and French naval force - made up of nuclear aircraft carriers carrying dozens of fighter jets, warships and submarines - is en route to the Persian Gulf to blockade Iran are untrue, the US Department of Defense told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "As a matter of policy we do not discuss current or future ship's movements. However, I can tell you that reports of an alleged naval blockade of Iran are false," said Lt.-Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. "We routinely rotate deployed naval forces in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility to maintain our commitment to promoting security and stability in the region," he added. The US Central Command covers the Middle East, East Africa and Central Asia. On Monday, Egypt's Middle East Times said Kuwait had activated its Emergency War Plan after learning that a "massive US and European armada is reported heading for the region." The news report said the force "comprises a US Navy super carrier battle group and is accompanied by an expeditionary carrier battle group, a British Royal Navy carrier battle group and a French nuclear hunter-killer submarine," adding that it was being led by the nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which carries 80 combat jets, and which is accompanied by the Carrier Strike Group Two. The carrier also had French Naval Rafale fighter jets on board, the report added. "Also reported heading toward Iran is another nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan and its Carrier Strike Group Seven; the USS Iwo Jima [amphibious assault ship], the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and a number of French warships, including the nuclear hunter-killer submarine Amethyste," the Middle East Times reported. The force will join two other American naval battle groups in the Gulf, the report added. Some of the ships were allegedly involved in Operation Brimstone, held in the Atlantic last week, which simulated a naval blockade of Iran, the Middle East Times said. Shortly after the report was published, Iran navy commander Ali Muhammad Salami announced on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic's navy would conduct its own exercise, the Teheran Times reported. "The extensive maneuvers will prepare Iranian forces for countering possible threats," Salami was quoted as saying.