Published January 03, 2012
The U.S. will not be deterred by an Iranian military leader's warning to keep an American carrier out of the Persian Gulf, a senior military official said Tuesday as the White House declared Iran's latest threat a sign of domestic troubles for Tehran's theocratic leadership.
The Navy will "certainly not disrupt any of its planned movements based on this latest threat," the U.S. official told Fox News, adding that Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz or act outside recognized international law is "further evidence that Iran continues to operate outside the norms of most nations."
"The deployment of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades," added Commander Bill Speaks in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The response followed Iranian Army Chief Ataollah Salehi's warning Tuesday that "the enemy's carrier" not be allowed to return through the Gulf passage.
"I advise, recommend and warn them (the Americans) over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once," the semi-official Fars news agency reportedly stated.
Salehi did not get specific on action to be taken or a carrier to heed warning, but the USS John C Stennis passed through the Strait of Hormuz in the days prior to the Iranian war games en route to help with the war effort in Afghanistan. It is now in the Northern Arabian Sea somewhere between Oman and Pakistan.
The Stennis is the only U.S. carrier group out there. Iran photographed a carrier that is assumed to be the Stennis during its war game exercises.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the threat reeks of desperation from an illegitimate leadership that is trying to divert attention from its economic woes and declining currency, both the result of withering international sanctions.
"I think it reflects the fact that Iran is in a position of weakness," Carney said of the warning. "It's confirmation that Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failures to live up to its international obligation. ... This is simply a measure of the impact that sanctions have been having on Iran."
"We want to see Iran come back into compliance with its international obligations to do so peacefully," added State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "We are not seeking a confrontation, but we will make sure that the role that we play in ensuring global freedom of navigation is continued."
Speaks said the U.S. Navy operates under high vigilance and according to international maritime conventions to ensure safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce.
"Our transits of the Strait of Hormuz continue to be in compliance with international law which guarantees our vessels the right of transit passage," he said.
"We are committed to protecting maritime freedoms that are the basis for global prosperity - this is one of the main reasons our military forces operate in the region," he added.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel contributed to this report.