Pentagon orders aircraft carrier to Gulf to add Iraq military option

WASHINGTON Sat Jun 14, 2014 4:51pm EDT

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) testifies with Defense Department General Counsel Stephen Preston (2nd L) about the Bergdahl prisoner exchange at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington June 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) testifies with Defense Department General Counsel Stephen Preston (2nd L) about the Bergdahl prisoner exchange at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington June 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered an aircraft carrier moved into the Gulf on Saturday, readying it in case Washington decides to pursue a military option after insurgents overwhelmed a string of Iraqi cities this week and threatened Baghdad.

"The order will provide the Commander-in-Chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq," the Pentagon said in a statement.

The carrier USS George H.W. Bush, moving from the North Arabian Sea, will be accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, the statement said. It added the ships were expected to complete their transit into the Gulf later on Saturday.

President Barack Obama said on Friday he needed several days to determine how the United States would help Iraq deal with the stunning advance of Islamist militants, who earlier this week seized several major Iraqi cities and appeared to have set their sights on the capital, Baghdad.

But the U.S. leader ruled out sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, where over 4,000 U.S. soldiers died in the war that followed the 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, and said any intervention would be contingent on Iraqi leaders overcoming their longstanding political and sectarian divisions.

While the United States has already increased its surveillance assistance to Iraq, conducting drone flights at the request of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Pentagon has also prepared a range of options for Obama to consider, including conducting air strikes.

Any stepped-up U.S. actions would be aimed at helping Iraq counter militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, who are seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate across much of Iraq and Syria.[ID:nL2N0OU0XR]

The USS George H.W. Bush is a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the largest warships in the world, according to the U.S. Navy. They are powered by two nuclear reactors and can carry a crew of about 6,000.

In addition to fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft, the ships are equipped with sophisticated anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.

One U.S. defense official declined to say how the USS H.W. Bush might be used to help Iraq fend off ISIL fighters, but said that such vessels are often used to launch airstrikes, conduct surveillance flights, do search, rescue, humanitarian and evacuation missions, and conduct seaborne security operations.

"Carriers can do all this from the sea, without needing any other country's permission," the official said on condition of anonymity.

(Reporting by Frances Kerry and Missy Ryan; Editing by Eric Beech and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (3)
carlmartel wrote:
This is a good start, but we should add another carrier battle group and refueling aircraft to keep fighter/bombers on station as long as needed to destroy ISIL’s capacity to move rapidly. The targets will be any vehicles that ISIL has captured and is using. We did that successfully against Iraq in 1991, so we can do it again to protect Iraq from ISIL. The temperature in Iraq can hit 130 degrees in the summer, and that will reduce the ability to march on foot for long distances. Further, helicopter gunships can destroy any troops in the open.

If ISIL takes Iraq, they will be on the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen not far away. Further, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is already in Yemen and can attack northward. The attacks by themselves will drive oil prices to $150 to $200 per barrel, and US gasoline prices will rise to $10 per gallon or more. The economies of the US and EU (NATO) depend on making or importing goods at city A and selling them at cities A, B, C, D, E, and F. That requires refined oil for transport. Without transport or with excessive costs for transport, the US and EU (NATO) will go into a decade of depression. Our armed forces have no way to “fight” a depression, but we can fight ISIL and stop the depression from happening.

We proved in 1991 that we can destroy almost all transportation in Iraq, so we can stop or seriously reduce ISIL’s movements. We can destroy their troops and heavy weapons on the ground. We can supply Iraq with armor, aircraft, and munitions to destroy ISIL. We can provide trainers, maintenance, other support, and, if necessary, air crews to help Iraq defeat ISIL. We can send drones to attack ISIL’s transport capabilities and any ISIL troops in the open. We can use US and NATO combat aircraft to destroy ISIL’s transport and troops. We can stop ISIL’s attempts to take the Arabian Peninsula that would raise oil prices dramatically, but we lack the ability to launch “attacks” that would lower oil prices, reduce gasoline prices, and protect the US and EU from a decade of depression.

Anyone who reads my posts will see that, most often, I oppose any form of military intervention by the US and NATO because the costs of most interventions are too high. In this case, the stakes of oil in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula are too high to give it to ISIL and/or ACAP.

Jun 14, 2014 2:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
alowl wrote:
I’d need a scorecard to choose the lesser of two evils. Why doesn’t Congress declare war? Then, if O refuses, that would be an impeachable offence. Do we really need another generation of Americans in The Fertile Cresent? Carl sounds like a furloughed defense contractor.

Jun 14, 2014 5:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Nietzschele wrote:
Hello H.W. We haven’t heard of you in a while. Welcome back.

Jun 14, 2014 7:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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