'Preventing war with Iran biggest challenge'
Manama, July 6, 2008
Preventing a war with Iran will be one of the biggest challenges facing the US naval forces in Bahrain, a senior military official said.
New Fifth Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Bill Gortney said on Saturday that avoiding a "miscalculation" that could trigger a potentially disastrous conflict would be a key part of his term.
He was speaking after a Change of Command ceremony, at the US Naval Support Activity base in Juffair. "We want stability for the region and security provides that stability," said Vice Adm Gortney.
"So we must ensure that we don't miscalculate anybody in the region and they don't miscalculate what we do and inadvertently create a situation that might trigger a strategic event.
"That is what we want to make sure we prevent and it is in nobody's interests to have that happen."
Outgoing Vice Adm Kevin Cosgriff handed over control of the US Naval Forces Central Command to him during a 35-minute ceremony.
Later talking to the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, Vice Adm Gortney said nearly a thousand relatives of US military personnel could return to Bahrain after navy officials called for the relaxation of a government security order.
More than 650 families and non-essential staff were evacuated in July 2004 when the Department of Defence expressed concerns over their safety in the Gulf.
Vice Adm Gortney said he hoped the policy would be changed after officials requested the decision be reversed.
The exodus nearly led to the closure of the Bahrain School after the sudden departure of almost half its children and many teachers.
"We are committed to bringing the families back and that process is working through our staffing back in Washington, DC," he said. "It is fairly personal you know - I want my wife here."
Vice Adm Gortney was unable to give a timescale when that could happen, but said he hoped it would be "as quickly as possible". More than 3,000 people are assigned to the US navy base.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Nazar Al Baharna, ambassadors and navy officials from around the Gulf were present at the handing over ceremony.-TradeArabia News Service