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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Military Makes Show of Strength in Persian Gulf

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran.

The maneuvers brought together two strike groups of U.S. warships and more than a 100 warplanes to conduct simulated air warfare in the crowded Persian Gulf shipping lanes.

The exercises came just four days after Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines.

U.S. Navy Commander Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors -- nor were they meant to threaten Iran, whose navy operates in the same waters.

He declined to specify when the U.S. Navy had planned the exercises.

Aandahl said the U.S. warships would stay out of Iranian territorial waters, which extend 19 kilometers off the country's coast.

A French naval strike group, led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, was operating simultaneously just outside the gulf. But the French ships were supporting the NATO forces in Afghanistan and not taking part in the U.S. maneuvers, officials said.

Overall, the exercises involved more than 10,000 U.S. personnel on warships and aircraft making simulated attacks on enemy ships, hunting for submarines and sweeping for mines.

"What it should be seen as by Iran or anyone else is that it's for regional stability and security," Aandahl said. "These ships are just another demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's Iran's behavior."