Dick Cheney has used his visit to Iraq and the Gulf region to threaten Iran in his most aggressive language yet. Standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier only miles from Iranian territory, Cheney made clear that it was no longer merely the possibility of Iran gaining nuclear weapons that concerned the Bush White House. Cheney cited Iran gaining "regional dominance" and blocking sea lanes as also being completely unacceptable.
While he delivered these threats, Cheney was standing in front of five carefully positioned Navy jet fighters.
Talk about subtle.
From the New York Times :
“With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we’re sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike,” he said, in a speech on board the U.S.S. John C. Stennis.
The United States “will stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region,” he said.
Mr. Cheney said today that the United States was determined, in the event of any crises in the region, to keep the sea lanes of the Gulf open.
His speech to American service members on board the carrier also seemed intended to reassure them that a strong American presence would be maintained in the region for some time.
“I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat,” Mr. Cheney said. “We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and then we want to return home with honor.”
The United States remains at odds with Iran over its nuclear program, which Iran says is peaceful, but which America and its Western allies say is intended to build weapons. The Bush administration has also expressed concerns about Iranian involvement in Iraq; officials have said that weapons are being smuggled into Iraq from Iran and that the insurgents who assemble and placing bombs in Iraq may be getting training in Iran. The Iranian government denies sponsoring or encouraging terrorism.
Mr. Cheney visited the U.S.S. John C. Stennis before, in March 2002, at a time when he was trying to build support for the invasion of Iraq, the A.P. noted.
Today, standing in front of five F-18 Super Hornet warplanes and a huge American flag on the hangar deck of the carrier, Mr. Cheney spoke to some 3,500 service members, according to the A.P. He sounded a hard line, saying the United States must hold firm in Iraq and confront Iran if necessary, the agency reported.
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