The USS Harry S. Truman carrier, complete with its strike group of 60 warplanes and 6,000 seamen, has been ordered to turn course from the Persian Gulf and deploy with the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean for the time being, debkafile’s military and Washington sources report. The administration’s decision was prompted by incoming intelligence attesting to heightened marine and military tensions between Israel, Turkey and Iran, in the wake of the Turkish premier Recep Erdogan’s determination to give his screws on Israel another turn – or two.
He was solidly backed up from Tehran Wednesday, June 16, by parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, who threatened military retaliation against Persian Gulf and Mediterranean shipping for any interference with the vessels Iran was sending to the Gaza Strip. He did not specify what kind they were.
In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted that Israel would no longer respect these vessels as promoted by aid agencies because they were obviously dispatched by outright enemies with hostile intent thinly disguised as humanitarian efforts.
Erdogan is planning more provocative sea convoys for Gaza and the severance of diplomatic relations.
Ankara has set its face implacably toward a full rupture and is determined to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip by force, regardless of the relaxations on the siege restrictions ceded by Israel in consultation with Washington.
Israeli ministers met Wednesday, June 16, to approve these relaxations. The broke for lunch without a decision. Some ministers maintained Israel’s ambassador from Ankara should be recalled forthwith without waiting for the Erdogan government to break off ties.
Early Wednesday, debkafile’s military sources reported that the Iranian “aid” ships known to be ready to set out for Gaza – or on their way – plan to put in at Turkish ports first and sail to their destination in a joint flotilla with Turkish vessels. Washington is concerned by this development in view of the high risk of a clash with Israel – especially if the Lebanese Hizballah terrorists decide to join the Iranian-Turkish convoy for Gaza.
Such a clash would involve a NATO member-state for the first time.
The USS Truman’s current movements are being kept under wraps. Shipping sources told debkafile that the Strike Group was sighted Monday and Tuesday south of Sicily, a convenient spot for a rapid response to flare-ups in any Mediterranean or Middle East arena.
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