Iran Warns U.S. Over Aircraft Carrier

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Iran Warns U.S. Over Aircraft Carrier

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USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) launches a jet during flight opps. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley)

Iran warned the United States Tuesday not to return a U.S. aircraft carrier "to the Persian Gulf region."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning," said Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, commander of Iran's Army, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.

Salehi "said the country will not adopt any irrational move but it is ready to severely react against any threat," the report added.

The commander spoke at the Port of Chabahar in southern Iran, as forces held a military parade, IRNA reported.

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols international waters in the region, had no immediate response to the comments Tuesday.

Iran ended naval drills in the region Monday evening.

Tehran said last week that an Iranian warplane identified a U.S. carrier patrolling the area of the drills. State-run media showed a picture of the vessel.

The USS John C. Stennis is in the region.

Iran's state-run Press TV said Tuesday the images it showed last week were of the Stennis.

The Stennis last week conducted a pre-planned transit out of the Persian Gulf and into the North Arabian Sea, the 5th Fleet said.

Iran, in the IRNA report, insisted said the U.S. vessel's movement out of the Gulf proved that it "understood" that Iran's maneuvers were not "suicidal or aggressive," but rather about Iran protecting its own "interests and power."

But Western diplomats last week described the naval drills -- which, according to Iranian officials, included test-firing missiles -- as further evidence of Iran's volatile behavior.

Iran's naval exercises began in the strait and also included waters in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean up to the Gulf of Aden, according to IRNA.

Tuesday's "warning" from Iran came amid growing tensions over the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping channel.

Iran last week threatened to block the strait if sanctions are imposed on its oil exports. France, Britain and Germany have proposed sanctions to punish Iran's lack of cooperation on its nuclear program.

Cmdr. Amy Derrick Frost, spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain, responded at the time, "Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated."

The dispute has been pushing up oil prices. Nearly 17 million barrels of oil a day pass through the strait, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. "Flows through the Strait in 2011 were roughly 35% of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20% of oil traded worldwide," the agency says.

But closing the strait would require means that likely are not available to Iran, said Jean-Paul Rodrigue, an expert in transport geography at Hofstra University. "At best, Iran can posture and potentially disrupt traffic for a short duration," he said.

China and Japan are more dependent on Persian Gulf oil than the United States is, he said, adding that any move to close the strait would be "suicidal" to the current regime.

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