The Bush administration has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran in recent weeks, and has said it will send a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.
Gates told reporters on February 2 at a Pentagon briefing in Washington that "The purpose of [sending a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf] is simply to underscore to our friends, as well as to our potential adversaries in the region, that the United States has considered the Persian Gulf and that whole area -- and stability in that area -- to be a vital American national interest."
He continued: "And that has been the case for decades, under many, many presidents. And we simply want to reinforce to our friends, in particular, that they can count on us having a presence and being strong in their area in protecting our interests and in protecting theirs."
(compiled from agency reports)