Iran’s Mullahs Breathing a Little Easier?

For much of the past year, two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups have been patrolling the Persian Gulf in what VP Dick Cheney called “a clear message to friends and adversaries alike [that] we’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.” Recent reports, however, suggest the U.S. build-up could be drawing down. The USS Enterprise — now underway to the Persian Gulf from its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia — is due to relieve the departing USS Stennis in a few weeks. But unless there’s some change of plans, the USS Nimitiz will not be immediately replaced when it returns home in late September, making the Enterprise the sole carrier in the region. The Navy is calling the move routine, but according to one Bush Administration official, it is part of a conscious effort to reduce pressure on Iran. Meanwhile, Israeli Military Intelligence reported on Tuesday that Iran might be nearing a “technological threshold” that could enable it to begin producing nuclear weapons sometime within the next two years. Could it be that the Bush Administration will favor a diplomatic track? Maybe, but, as the inside source pointed out, U.S. warplanes at land bases in Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan are all within easy striking distance of Tehran.