Où sont les porte-avions ?

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On sait depuis plusieurs semaines que la présence des porte-avions de l’U.S. Navy près de l’Iran constitue un signal puissant permettant de deviner si une attaque se prépare ou non. On s’en tient ici à l’aspect technique de la chose, et à l’aspect politique des décisions de déploiement, et non à l’état d’esprit de la Navy à cet égard.

Un très intéressant texte du colonel Dan Smith, sur CounterPunch.org du 26 février, nous éclaire sur les traditions et les interprétations de l’usage du porte-avions US en temps de crise, et sur l’actuel état de la flotte à cet égard, avec les localisations des unités.

Smith tire de son décompte, et des divers éléments de la situation stratégique générale, la conclusion qu’une attaque de l’Iran est aujourd’hui très improbable.

«…At the same time that George Bush is trying to weld a larger can to recapture all the escaping worms from the open cans — sending 21,500 U.S. troops (or as many as 28,000 if support troops are included) to Iraq and 3,200 more to Afghanistan — many people are concerned that he is in the process of opening a third can — Iran.

»These concerns are being fueled by the movement of U.S. carrier battle groups, of which there are 12. With about 80 aircraft on each carrier and escorts armed with land attack Tomahawk missiles, these are potent armadas. Those who look to the carriers as bell weathers for U.S. military action equate the presence of one carrier in a region as indicating interest in regional events, two carries as symbolizing serious interest, even concern, and three or more carriers as preparation for an attack.

»They point to history for support of their prognosis. In March 1979, when students overran the U.S. embassy in Teheran and held the staff hostage for 444 days, at least two carriers were present in the Persian Gulf (or as the Navy now calls it, the Arabian Sea) and in the Indian Ocean. In the run-up to the first Iraq War (Operation Desert Storm 1991), the Navy committed six carriers in the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, or the Eastern Mediterranean. A dozen years later, February 2003, just prior to the start of the Second Iraq War, five carriers were on station or en route to the battle area. Then there are the times when just two carriers were used: e.g., Lebanon's civil war in 1982 when two carriers rotated in and out of the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya in 1986 in the Gulf of Sidra.

»So the question now is: where are the carriers and are they, considering past practice, positioned in sufficient numbers for an attack?

»• By my count, four carriers are in maintenance: Kitty Hawk, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Carl Vinson. The Lincoln is due to emerge at the end of February 2007.

»• John F. Kennedy is being decommissioned next month;

»• Three carriers are in the Atlantic: Enterprise, heading home after completing a tour in the Arabian Sea area; Theodore Roosevelt; and Harry Truman;

»• One carrier is in the Pacific: Ronald Reagan (covering the Kitty Hawk's traditional position);

»Three carriers are in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea-Indian Ocean- Gulf of Oman vicinity: Dwight Eisenhower, John Stennis, and Nimitz, which is relieving the Eisenhower.

»So the “three carrier” historical trigger is in place. But this time the administration will not be attacking Iran — or any other enemy. The reason for rejecting the historical precedence is quite simple: I could not find any instance since the Vietnam War when a president preparing to initiate military action centered on carrier battle groups had two gaggles of worms already out of the can and heading for the door (Iraq and Afghanistan). The probability that the president will open the third can (Iran) is lessened further because the administration doesn't have a “larger can” — that is, the support of the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, and other European Union countries — for military action. In fact, Washington is unable to forge agreement on stringent sanctions to make Iran comply with Security Council resolutions concerning its nuclear activities.»


Mis en ligne le 3 mars 2007 à 14H16