The US Fifth Fleet and US aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower in the Gulf of Oman were not allowed to shoot at an Iranian Fokker F27 aircraft which on April 21 hovered for 20 minutes 900 meters over the carrier and no more than 250 meters away, even though they saw its flight crew gathering intelligence on the Eisenhower and its warship escorts.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that the US Persian Gulf command went public on the incident on April 28, a whole week later, only after Gulf military circles, amazed at the American naval and air units' passivity in the face of hostile surveillance, threatened to break the story to local media.
This striking restraint indicates that the US Gulf and Arabian fleets are under orders to take no action - certainly not to open fire - against Iranian naval or air units, with first obtaining permission directly from
Military, naval and aviation sources told DEBKA-Net-Weekly that the Iranian spy plane was 10 second away from flying directly over the Eisenhower and could easily have been shot down.
To try and explain this incident away, US naval sources Wednesday, April 28, claimed the Iranian plane was unarmed and its encounter with the
carrier was not of a threatening nature, although irregular. US
Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, tried to play down the importance of the incident by saying: "The Iranians (pilots) were not provocative or threatening. As long as they are professional and not threatening or reckless, it's international space."
But officials of the Gulf emirate navies think otherwise. They say it was the first time that an Iranian spy plane ventured so close to an American aircraft carrier and the
USnon-response will encourage to go for bolder and more provocative actions. Tehran
Of late, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, especially Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have become extra-sensitive of late to the raised US response threshold to threatening moves by Iran, after witnessing the sinking of a South Korean warship and the handling of the case by Washington.
The South Korean Cheonan, a 1,200-ton corvette, was sunk on March 26, apparently by a naval mine that was planted by the North Korean navy in the
Baengnyeong Islandarea, whose sovereignty is in dispute between Seouland . Right after the incident, in which 46 South Korean sailors were lost, the Obama administration hastened to issue a statement denying evidence of North Korean involvement - even though South Korean intelligence demonstrated that a North Korean mine, or midget submarine of a type of in the possession of the Iranian Navy, was responsible for sinking the corvette. Pyongyang
Undersecretary of State James Steinberg, who deals with Iranian affairs, said on March 29 that he had heard nothing to implicate any other country in the tragedy.
This was taken in Gulf capitals to show the Obama administration was ready to lean backwards to avoid military action against
North Korea- even on the part of the injured party, . They see a close correlation between the provocative tactics employed by South Korea Pyongyangand , whose nuclear and missile programs are likewise coordinated. These Gulf sources, talking to debkafile, wondered out loud if the United States would also turn a blind eye to an Iranian attack that cause the sinking of a Saudi, UAE or Israeli ship sailing in the Gulf. Tehran