The Pentagon canceled plans on Wednesday to send a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Budget cuts in defense are forcing the cutbacks. The decision significantly reduces America’s military presence in the volatile region.
The USS Harry S. Truman was set to leave for the Persian Gulf on Friday, but the U.S. Navy cancelled its deployment, leaving only one carrier in the Gulf. The United States has maintained two aircraft carriers in the region since 2011.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke about the military cutbacks on Wednesday at Georgetown University.
SOUNDBITE: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:
If these cuts happen, there will be serious disruption in defense programs and a sharp decline in our military readiness. We have already begun an all-out effort to plan for how to operate under such a scenario, but it’s also very clear that there are no good options.
These steps would seriously damage a fragile American economy, and they would degrade our ability to respond to crises precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe— North Africa to the Strait of Hormuz, from Syria, to North Korea.
As Panetta points out, America’s economic problems are forcing America to turn inward and retreat from the Middle East.
Roughly 35 percent of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, which is the entry to and exit from the Persian Gulf. With Iran’s continuing belligerence, and Egypt and Libya falling into the radical Islamic camp, watch for these key sea gates to come under attack.