The USS Nimitz, a nuclear-powered multi-mission aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy, and other ships in its strike group including four destroyers and a cruiser, were rerouted to the Red Sea, in anticipation of a U.S. strike on Syria, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing U.S. defense officials.
The ships were ordered to move to the Red Sea, which lies between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and is connected to the Mediterranean Sea by the Suez Canal, as the Navy leverages its assets “to have them in place should the capabilities of the carrier strike group and the presence be needed,” a defense official told Reuters.
The ships do not have orders, as of now, to be deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which lies closer to Syria, but another defense source who spoke to Reuters said, the Navy is trying to be “as ready as possible, should we be needed.”
The Nimitz strike group was slated to return to its home port in Everett, Wash., after ending its deployment in the Indian Ocean, where it was assisting U.S. operations in Afghanistan, but amid prospects of an imminent strike by the U.S. in Syria, U.S. defense officials decided to reroute it to the Red Sea, Reuters reported.
The U.S. Navy has six warships -- five destroyers equipped with cruise missiles and an amphibious ship, USS San Antonio -- stationed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, as part of preparations for a “limited” strike on Syria, according to another Reuters report on Friday.
The San Antonio has hundreds of Marines on board, but defense officials stressed that the U.S. did not have plans to deploy them on the ground if a military strike occurred, but added that the ship could provide a temporary base for special operations forces, and could also help in evacuations.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s decision to delay the strike to seek congressional approval was met with accusations of “indecision” and “confusion” from the Syrian government.
“It is clear there was a sense of hesitation and disappointment in what was said by President Barack Obama yesterday. And it is also clear there was a sense of confusion as well,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said in Damascus, according to news reports.
Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the region, offered support to a U.S. strike on Syria, if the Syrian people supported such a move.
“We stand by the will of the Syrian people. They know best their interests, so whatever they accept, we accept, and whatever they refuse, we refuse,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said in Cairo, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Arab League on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera.