U.S. Central Command fuel orders 'more than double' the norm
GERTZ - ABU DHABI — The U.S. is organizing increased fuel reserves in the Gulf, giving rise to speculation about military preparations in the region.
Sources said the U.S. Central Command has increased orders of fuel for naval vessels deployed in the Gulf. They said Centcom, in cooperation with the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, plans to establish a huge fuel reserve with supplies that could last more than two months.
| Ships from the U.S. Fifth Fleet on patrol in the Persian Gulf region. cusnc.navy.mil |
In November, the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, or MSC, issued tenders for four tankers to transport at least one million barrels of fuel for aircraft and surface vessels. The tankers were meant for Gulf ports and operations in the region.
Over the last two years, MSC has usually placed orders for one or two tankers per month for operations in Iraq and the Gulf. The Fifth Fleet has been based in Bahrain and is responsible for operations in the Gulf.
The sources said the tankers would transport fuel from such Gulf Cooperation Council countries as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to Bahrain. They said fuel would also be acquired from Saudi Arabia, which raised its annual allocation to the U.S. military from 1.5 million barrels in 2006 to nearly eight million in 2007.
The U.S. Navy has sought to maintain at least two carrier strike groups in the Gulf. In mid-November, the navy conducted exercises in anti-mine and anti-submarine warfare.
"More fuel means more activity, and this could be the beginning of something," the source said.
The United States has not cited the fuel shipments as part of military preparations in the Gulf. On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the best way to confront Iran's nuclear weapons program was through international diplomatic pressure. Gates said military force should remain a last resort.
"We are engaged in diplomacy with Iran," Gates said. "The administration has made clear that it is prepared to have broader dialogue if [the Iranians] make commitments to stop enriching."