Despite Iran Warning, US Vows to Keep Ships in Persian Gulf

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. military says the United States will continue to deploy warships in the Persian Gulf, after Iran warned a U.S. aircraft carrier not to return to the region.

“The deployment of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

A U.S. Navy officer said in an email to reporters on Tuesday that the United States is committed to ensuring the safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce.

Iran has threatened to respond to Western sanctions over its controversial nuclear program by closing the Strait of Hormuz, a key export route for oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf.

Earlier Tuesday, Iranian army chief Ataollah Salehi warned a U.S. carrier that was previously in the Persian Gulf to stay away. He said Iran is ready to respond to what it perceives as a “threat.”

The U.S. Navy said last week the USS John C. Stennis left the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz in a pre-planned, routine operation.

France on Tuesday called for stronger sanctions against Iran, including freezing the assets of its central bank.

That follows action by the United States, which imposed new sanctions targeting financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank. The step could affect Iran's ability to sell oil on international markets.

Iran's currency slumped to a record low against the U.S. dollar on Monday, two days after U.S. President Barack Obama signed the sanctions into law.

The step is part of a push to hamper Iran's ability to finance its nuclear and missile programs.

The United States and its Western allies say Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear intentions are peaceful.