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US aircraft carrier arrives in Persian Gulf, shadowed by Iranian boats

The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Arabian Sea, Dec. 16, 2018. The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jeffery L. Southerland/U.S. Navy)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A U.S. aircraft carrier has sailed into the Persian Gulf, becoming the first in the region since President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year.

The December 21 arrival of the USS John C. Stennis came amid repeated threats by Iranian officials to close off the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the gulf and the only outlet through which all ship traffic passes.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels followed the carrier and its strike group as it arrived. There were also sightings of a drone, as well as rockets being test-fired away from the U.S. ships.

Iranian sailors on the accompanying ships could be seen photographing and videotaping the U.S. ships.

Tensions with Iran have been high since Trump’s announcement that the United States was pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, which lifted crippling sanctions in exchange for Tehran curtailing its nuclear activities.

Iran is a major exporter of oil and a member of the OPEC oil cartel. Iranian President Hassan Rohani has repeatedly warned any attempt to stop Iran’s exports could cause it to close off the strait.