WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- Three guided-missile U.S. destroyers have returned to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, ending a seven-month deployment to the Middle East.
The homecoming of Bainbridge, Mason and Nitze follows that of the destroyer Gonzalez, which returned to Norfolk Oct. 26, U.S. military newspaper Navy Times reported on Sunday.
Bainbridge, Nitze and Mason deployed April 1 alongside the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which also was going to make a homeport shift to San Diego, the report said.
The strike group rushed to the Middle East in May "to send a clear and unmistakable message” to Iran amid spiraling tensions, then-National Security Advisor John Bolton said.
Lincoln remains on an extended deployment while its replacement, the Harry S. Truman, has been sidelined by repairs for an electrical issue.
While deployed to the 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf, the destroyers assisted in so-called Operation Sentinel, purportedly escorting merchant ships through the strategically important Strait of Hormuz.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain announced Thursday that a military coalition in the Persian Gulf officially launched its operations supposedly seeking to protect shipping lanes near Iranian territorial waters.
Washington announced a deployment of 1,000 additional troops in the region following suspicious attacks on vessels in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman earlier this year.
Tehran has hinted that the attacks were part of a scenario orchestrated by Washington and its regional allies in a bid to rally international pressure against Iran.
Among Washington's Western allies, only Australia, Britain and Albania have pledged to deploy forces along with participating regional countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
UAE Calls for Diplomacy With Iran
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Muhammad Gargash, however, sought to mollify Tehran on Sunday, saying his small country does not seek confrontation with Iran.
"Further escalation at this point serves no one and we strongly believe that there is room for collective diplomacy to succeed,” Gargash said in a speech in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE backed U.S. President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran but called for de-escalation after the suspicious attacks this summer.
"I believe there could be a path to a deal with Iran that all parties might soon be ready to embark on. It will be long, and patience and courage will be required,” Gargash said.
"The UAE has therefore sought to de-escalate tensions and help create awareness that this situation is neither sustainable nor beneficial to any party. My hope is that by taking this approach we may create an opening for a meaningful political process,” he added.
Such a process, Gargash said, would need to address all the major security issues of concern to other countries in the region.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani presented a plan for Persian Gulf security at the UN General Assembly in September. The Iranian proposal, dubbed the "Coalition of Hope”, is designed to form a coalition among the regional states to ensure security in the region without the interference of foreign forces.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Saturday there are various signs that some parties from behind the scenes are stoking tensions between Tehran and the Persian Gulf states.
"It is clear some of the Persian Gulf states are involved in these divisions, leading them to a direction that the people do not want,” he said in an interview with RT’s Arabic service in Moscow.
Tehran expects regional countries to examine Iran’s initiative to support shipping in the Persian Gulf and to submit Iran their opinion on the matter, Araqchi added.
The senior official said the UAE’s response to the Iranian initiative had been better, adding some mutual trips had been made, "and we believe there is a greater understanding between Iran and the UAE regarding the issue.”
"We hope that more calm will be restored between Iran and the UAE to lead to more calm in the region,” he added.