WASHINGTON — Navy Secretary James H. Webb said today that the United States will maintain its forces in the Persian Gulf until Iran recognizes that it cannot attack neutral ships sailing in international waters.
The Navy secretary repeatedly declined during a Pentagon briefing to estimate how long the U.S. military presence will continue at the current level. But he made it clear that Iranian "belligerence" could force a long-term commitment.
"I think that once the Iranians understand that many, many nations share the same concern that we have about the ability to operate in international waterways, and once the other countries in the region understand that we will make this point, then we have accomplished our goals," Webb said.
Webb, who returned Tuesday from a visit to the gulf, acknowledged he was frustrated at first by the decision to use U.S. warships to protect Kuwaiti tankers because other allied nations did not step forward to help.
That situation has changed significantly over the last month as other Western countries have decided to send minesweepers and other vessels to the region, Webb said.