France’s aircraft carrier in Gulf after Israeli ship reportedly targeted

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A Liberian-flagged, Israeli-owned container ship named Lori was struck in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday according to reports. It would be the second such incident involving an Israeli ship after the Helios Ray was hit by a mysterious explosion in the same area on February 26.

Now the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has arrived in Abu Dhabi as part of a deployment that France says is committed to “freedom of navigation.” France’s defense minister Florence Parly has long been an advocate of France and the international community playing a robust role in the wake of attacks on ships in May 2019 in the Gulf of Oman.

The Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French Navy and is docked at Mina Zayed Port, reports say. Three frigates and a submarine are accompanying it. The French routinely do major drills around the world as part of their naval deployments, such as the annual Jeanne D’Arc multi-month deployment.

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France’s four-month deployment of its major ship this time is called Clemenceau 21. The deployment began on February 21. Georges Clemenceau was premier of France’s Third Republic during the Great War from 1917 to 1920. France is seeking to re-assert itself in regional affairs under President Emmanuel Macron.

The arrival of the French on the same day as the attack on the second Israeli-owned ship is not linked, but it does illustrate the importance of a navy presence from the US, France and others to stop these kinds of attacks, or at least monitor and collect evidence about them or deter Iran from further attacks. The full details about both attacks are not clear, but The New York Times ran an article describing an Israeli-Iran shadow war at sea.

This comes after the Wall Street Journal report earlier this month about a dozen alleged Israeli attacks on Iranian ships. The Suez Canal is now blocked so no Iranian ships appear to be going through it towards Syria.

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“The main mission of the deployment, Clemenceau 21, is the fight against terrorism, against Daesh,” Rear Adm.Marc Aussedat said, according to Arab News. “We’re also deployed within the strategic areas where the French interests, European interests, allied interests are at stake – and it’s a tool to disseminate stability and remind everybody of the importance of freedom of navigation, and freedom of action from the sea.”

France has been becoming closer with the UAE, Greece and India, as well as the US in recent years. The French strike group is accompanied by a ship from Greece and Belgium as well as the USS Porter. This shows an important Western commitment to the Middle East.

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