The American aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, nicknamed Ike, continues its advance through the Persian Gulf. “The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (IKECSG) completed the planned crossing of the Strait of Hormuz in the Arabian Gulf on Nov. 26,” the US Central Military Command (Centcom ) said on Monday on its official website.
Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the United States has deployed two aircraft carriers to the region: the USS Gerald Ford, the world's largest warship, which is in the Mediterranean off the coast of Israel since October; and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which had been in the Red Sea since early November. Also deployed in the region are support ships, dozens of planes, and a submarine. The military naval ensemble aims to deter any attempt to widen the conflict, in particular with the involvement of Iran and the militias it supports.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, satellite imagery from Nov. 28 shows the USS Eisenhower approximately 100 kilometers south of the Iranian coast and around 120 kilometers northeast of Qatar. The satellite photos also reveal an aircraft, “which seems to be about to land.”
Iran took note of the American aircraft carrier's presence, with pro-Iranian channel al-Mayadeen reporting on drone-captured images published by Iran. "The Iranian military released surveillance pictures taken by drones on Tuesday, showing the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and accompanying vessels entering the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz," the article reads, indicating the date of Nov. 26, 2023, as marked on images released by Iranian news agency Tasnim.
“Our passage through this important strait and our continued presence in the region play a critical role in maintaining freedom of navigation, which is essential to regional security and stability,” said Rear Admiral Marc Miguez, Commander. of the IKECSG naval group on the Centcom site.
The war in Gaza is causing unrest throughout the region, with 73 attacks against American interests in Iraq and Syria recorded since the beginning of the war. In response, Washington has bombed Iran-linked sites in Syria several times.
Furthermore, maritime incidents initiated by pro-Iranian groups are increasing. The Houthis, Yemeni rebels allied with Iran, captured, on November 19, the M/V Galaxy Leader, a merchant ship with its 25 crew members, in retaliation for the war waged by Israel against Hamas. The Galaxy Leader was operated by a Japanese shipping company but belongs to a British company which is itself owned by an Israeli businessman.
On Nov. 23, a US warship patrolling the Red Sea, the USS Thomas Hudner, intercepted explosive drones launched from a Houthi-controlled region of Yemen. On Nov. 24, another ship linked to Israel was slightly damaged in the Indian Ocean by an Iranian-made Shahed-type explosive drone, without causing any injuries. An attempt to capture the M/V Central Park, an oil tanker belonging to a company linked to Israel, was foiled on Nov. 26 in the Gulf of Aden by an American destroyer, the USS Mason, which intercepted the five alleged attackers, believed to be Somali pirates.
Amid these heightened tensions, the Pentagon announced on Nov. 6 that an American submarine was also in the Middle East to "deter" any attempt to extend the war between Israel and Hamas into a regional conflict. This submarine is "now in the operation area of the 5th Fleet," which includes the Gulf and the Red Sea, Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder told the press. This move is part of American efforts to "deter actions in the region," Ryder added, without providing further details. Another command and control ship, the USS Mount Whitney, left its home port of Gaeta, Italy, on Oct. 18 to join forces in the eastern Mediterranean.
All the ships and equipment deployed by the American Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean meet a triple objective, military expert Aram Nerguizian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told L'Orient-Le Jour at the end of October: "Provide strategic support to Israel; deter Hezbollah and other combatants; have an air defense or combat air patrol role, if necessary."
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour.