- Spain doesn’t want its frigate sailing with the USS Abraham Lincoln into the Persian Gulf to challenge Iran.
- The Spanish defence ministry said on Tuesday that the new mission was inconsistent with the agreement on joint operations signed by the US and Spain.
- Spain said the warship would rejoin the carrier strike group once its deterrence mission concludes and it returns to regularly scheduled operations.
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A European ally has decided to pull a warship away from a US carrier strike group sent to deter an Iranian attack on American interests, according to multiple reports.
The Spanish frigate Mendez Nunez and its 215 sailors are peeling off from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a powerful naval force consisting of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as well as support ships.
The Spanish defence ministry said on Tuesday that the country decided to withdraw its warship because the new mission was inconsistent with its initial agreement with the US.
“The US government has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish navy,” Acting Defence Minister Margarita Robles said, according to Reuters.
The US Navy vessels were recently rerouted to the Persian Gulf in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region,” US Central Command said.
The US military has also deployed a bomber task force consisting of four B-52H Stratofortress bombers, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, and a Patriot air-and-missile defence battery to the CENTCOM area of responsibility to demonstrate to Iran that the US is prepared to respond to any attack with “unrelenting force,” the White House said.
The Pentagon and the White House are reportedly exploring worst-case scenarios that could involve sending as many as 120,000 troops to the region, a force nearly as large as the US troops who invaded Iraq in 2003.
Some observers have suggested that the escalating situation could cause the US and Iran to stumble into a conflict, whether they want one or not.
The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that “Spain wants to avoid being involuntarily dragged into any kind of conflict with Iran.” But while the defence ministry has distanced itself from US actions, it did not identify this as a justification for its decision.
The decision was “not an expression of distaste,” the defence minister said, adding that the ship would rejoin the US fleet once regularly scheduled operations resume, Fox News reported. Spain insists that it remains a “serious and trustworthy partner,” El Pais said.
The incorporation of the Mendez Nunez into the carrier strike group was planned over a year ago, and joint operations were expected to last six months. The initial mission was meant to mark the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world, Reuters reported.
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