In the light of renewed War! War! War! fears, it's clearly time to check out the indicators; currently, there is one US Navy carrier group in the Middle East (Enterprise and Co). This is down from two for most of this year, and is the lowest for some time - although not quite, as there were a couple of days in early August with no carrier. Stennis left the Gulf heading east on the 11th of July and was due in Bremerton on the 31st August; Nimitz left on the 23rd of July and is making a leisurely passage back to San Diego. On the other side of the balance, Enterprise sailed on the 7th of July and made a notably quick passage (less than two weeks) to her only port call en-route, Cannes, and then took not much less time to reach her station. So, there was a gap from the 23rd of July to the 12th of August.
As before, Vinson, Roosevelt, and Washington are all in dockyard hands. Lincoln is in the early stages of workup, having done flight deck and carrier qualifications in July. Eisenhower took part in a JTFEX during July, but please note that as she only returned from deployment in May, she probably has significant yard time in her future. The next ship in the cycle is therefore Harry S. Truman, whose JTFEX it was, and who has also recently done her COMPTUEX.
Kitty Hawk is on her way back to Japan from the Valiant Shield exercise off Guam with the two returning carriers. Note that she is due to return to the US and head for the breakers' yard at the end of the year, to be replaced by Washington. Note also that the Reagan had to dash off to Japan in the spring to cover her beat, breaking off her own maintenance and training schedules because Kitty was inoperable; presumably her joints are no less creaky than three months ago, so there is a possible commitment to replace her at any time.
That gap, now. I recall reading (possibly at Pat Lang's) that some of the GCC states had expressed much concern at this maritime no-bicycle; if there is a crackerjack indicator for a war with Iran, I reckon it would be the movement of Patriot/Arrow/whatever SAMs/ABMs to the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Not only are they allies, and extremely vulnerable, Qatar is the seat of CENTCOM and various air bases, Bahrain of the US 5th Fleet's Middle Eastern logistic support, and Dubai is both the general political-economic centre, a hugely important port, and the seat of the only shipyard in the region with the hope of taking in a major warship (and, as in the Iran-Iraq war, making a fortune patching up tankers). Saudi oil installations need no introduction, but they (like Israel and Kuwait) have their own.
I recall a minor blogfroth about this two Iran scares ago (ie January 2007 - the rate is a little higher than Friedman units.) As far as I can make out they went to Qatar, but I am not at all sure; the unit was the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery. Here's a photo of one of this outfit's soldiers being annoyed with stupid questions, by "business leaders" flown in for a look-see. It's given as "Southwest Asia", but the matching press release makes it clear that it's a huge great airbase, the location of a Combined Air Operations Centre; realistically it's got to be Al-Udeid in Qatar. So no new information in that. An alternative would be to deploy Aegis cruisers.
Any others I should watch? (Oh yes, if you've read this far you ought to read this too.) What gets me is that Newsnight is quite happy to spend its whole allocation of airtime grammarchopping What Bush Said without one word regarding the facts.