Persian Gulf -- The roughly 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria are caught in the middle of mounting diplomatic tension between Turkey and the United States. Turkey said this morning it will launch an in Syria, the YPG, whether or not the Trump administration delays its promised withdrawal of troops.
"Our operation against YPG is not dependent on whether U.S. pulls out," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday, adding that Turkey's leader made the decision to launch an offensive against the YPG, which Ankara considers a terror group.
Cavusoglu warned that if the fast U.S. pull-out announced by President Trump in December -- the timetable for which the White House has already effectively made indefinite -- was delayed, "then we will put this decision into practice."
No let-up in Syria
But CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata says the diplomatic battle between the U.S. and its NATO ally Turkey over the Kurds' fate has not changed the mission of those protecting American forces on the ground.
D'Agata met U.S. service members on board the USS John C. Stennis, which was recently re-deployed to the region, and as he reported from the flight deck on Thursday, they don't do government shutdowns on U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf.
CBS News arrived aboard the Stennis to find the nuclear-powered supercarrier at full steam, catapulting F-18 fighter jets into the sky. They've hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan, and continue to launch dozens of airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq -- Syria, whatever the mixed messages out of Washington.
Despite President Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, there's been no let-up of aircraft sent out to support them, and their Kurdish allies, despite the continued threats from Turkey.
And then there's Iran
The return of a U.S. aircraft carrier angered the Iranian regime, which deployed Iranian naval vessels to shadow the strike group after it arrived from its home port of Bremerton, Washington, last month.
The Commanding Officer of the Stennis, Captain Randy Peck, called it a "welcome wagon" to the neighborhood. He watched as the Iranian vessels followed his ship.
"They were 'escorting' us through the Strait of Hormuz, might be a safe way to say it," Peck said, tongue in cheek. The Strait of Hormuz may be an international transit route, but it passes right through Iranian territorial waters. Few military set pieces project U.S. power more definitively than an aircraft carrier strike group.
The message to Iran is clear, and likely easily understood.
"It takes 5,000 people to have one pilot go off the pointy end of this ship, to achieve the nation's objectives," U.S. Navy Master Chief Benjamin Rushing told D'Agata. "And when everyone knows that, and is firing on that: easy day."
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