DUBAI - The United States has needlessly raised tensions in the Gulf by rushing an aircraft carrier to the region, one of the leading newspapers in the Gulf said Sunday.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen last week ordered the carrier Nimitz to skip a port call in Singapore and move to the Gulf "at best speed" in response to Iranian air raids on bases inside Iraq run by armed opposition exiles.
At the same time, Washington told Tehran Iranian aircraft could be shot down if they violated the flight ban.
The carrier's group of seven warships is now due to arrive in the Gulf to join existing U.S. naval forces in the waterway by the middle of October, four or five days earlier than originally scheduled.
"The U.S. already has an operational force in the region to patrol the 'no-fly zone' inside Iraq, so Nimitz could have got to the region a few days later than planned without creating a crisis," Gulf News said in an editorial.
The English-language daily said the 'no-fly zone' was a controversial ban imposed by the United States and Britain against Iraqi air attacks on the minorities living in the north and south of the country.
"It amounts to a questionable curtailment of Iraq's sovereignty and must not be used to threaten the territorial integrity of the country," Gulf News said.
It said the way the United States enforced the no-fly zones -- one in the north declared in 1991 to protect Kurds and one in the south imposed in 1992 after Iraqi air force raids on Iraqi Shi'ites -- was a major reproach in itself.
"Why is Turkey being allowed to violate Iraq's sovereignty by flying into the 'no-fly zone' in the north of Iraq and attacking its Kurdish rebels from the air and on the ground without any action being taken by the U.S.?" Gulf News asked.
"If and when the Nimitz sails into the Mediterranean to warn Turkey against violation of the 'no-fly zone' in the north, then American credibility will be better served than it is now."
An Iranian official Sunday called the U.S. move an "act of desperation." "The dispatch of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf is an attempt to misportray the Persian Gulf as a trouble spot," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi told the official IRNA news agency.
Press Agency Ozgurluk
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