U.S.-Iran Tensions Easing, Pentagon Officials Say

WASHINGTON, Jan. 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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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