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Prep flights off USS George HW Bush

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(22 Mar 2017) American sailors watched as the first Revolutionary Guard vessels appeared on the horizon of the Strait of Hormuz, beginning a daylong dance familiar to the Iranian paramilitary power and U.S. naval forces that pass through the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.But the song may be changing. President Donald Trump has warned that Iranian forces will be blown out of the water if they challenge U.S. naval vessels, while American commanders describe the Guard as increasingly behaving unprofessionally with rocket launches and provocative actions.Iranian hard-liners, still smarting over the nuclear detente with the West, may see a military confrontation as a way to derail moderate President Hassan Rouhani heading into the country's May presidential election.All of what happens next could hinge on the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil trade by sea passes. "What reason were they to be in an international corridor, other than to harass us?" Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Carrier Strike Group 2, later asked. "Was today the day they were going to come out and potentially deploy kinetic actions against us?"Whitesell oversees the strike group that has the USS George H.W. Bush at its heart. The Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered carrier left her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, on Jan. 21, Trump's first full day in office. Its passage through the strait closes a roughly three-month gap in which America had no aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.A similar gap happened in the fall of 2015 - the first for the US since 2007. Its overall mission is providing a base for airstrikes against the Islamic State group.The ship's contingent of F-18 fighter jets began bombing the extremists in February as the vessel transited through the Mediterranean Sea. But serving as a counterbalance to Iran and assuring America's Gulf Arab allies in the region also remains vital, Whitesell said.While acknowledging Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have strong suspicions about Iran, he said there hadn't been any change in his orders in how to deal with the Islamic Republic. "The political aspect of the United States has kind of been in our wake," the rear admiral said.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4087303 74762c026d45f58782846f6fb1be297e At Sea US Iran Donald Trump George H. Bush Hassan Rouhani James Mattis Iran Middle East United States Strait of Hormuz Mediterranean Sea Persian Gulf United States presidential election Government and politics Business
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