PERSIAN GULF (NNS) -- A news team from Al Iraqiya TV, one of only two national television stations in Iraq, visited the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet area of responsibility March 22-27.
The Basrah-based journalists conducted interviews aboard USS Duluth (LPD 6), USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and the Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT), bringing the story of coalition activities to the Iraqi people, from an Iraqi perspective.
"On this trip, we learned about friends that want to help us," said Haider Zayed Khalas, Al Iraqiya reporter. "Iraq must know that countries are trying to help us. We are trying to build a new country, a new land and a new people. We need other countries to help us do that."
Commander, Task Force 58 Rear Adm. Christopher Ames greeted the journalists aboard Bonhomme Richard on station in the Persian Gulf and discussed the importance of maritime security operations (MSO) in the area.
MSO is aimed at setting the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment. Illicit activity at sea has a global impact. MSO pressurizes the maritime environment and is the single most significant component of the conventional maritime effort against terrorism.
"As you know, we have a sizeable force of coalition ships in the area," he told the media team. "Our purpose is to set the conditions for security and stability, so the Iraqi people have the opportunity for self-determination. We're here to detect, disrupt and deny access to the North Arabian Gulf to any international terrorist organization (ITO) that could pose a hazard to the infrastructure of Iraq's oil, to commercial shipping or to coalition forces."
In the Persian Gulf, multinational forces work directly with Iraqi maritime forces to prevent attacks against ABOT and KAAOT (Kwar Al Amaya) oil terminals, which are linked to roughly 80 percent of Iraq's economy.
"These terminals are very important for Iraq," said an Iraqi marine, currently aboard ABOT. "The government takes this money and gives it to everyone in Iraq - soliders, policeman, everyone - so it is very important to us." (The identity of the Iraqi Marine is withheld for security reasons.)
Iraq's reliance on the oil terminals for economic growth, stability and prosperity makes the infrastructure a key target for ITOs, requiring constant vigilance by Iraqi and coalition forces.
"We have many ships that are protecting the oil terminals just off Iraq's coast," said Ames. "They offer great hope to re-energize and accelerate the economy of Iraq, which is a goal we all support. It's a mission we take quite seriously - 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
The Iraqi navy is also very serious about the mission, said Ames.
"I have great respect for the professionalism of the Iraqi navy," he said. "We work with them hand-in-hand to patrol the Iraqi territorial waters, and they've made tremendous progress in a very short period of time."
"It's a great privilege to work with them and offer interoperability training," Ames continued. "They will be a key element in the success of Iraq's economy because they will not only be protecting the free flow of commerce, but they will be protecting the oil platforms that are so critical to the economic recovery of Iraq."
While Iraq continues to develop its standing as a sovereign, democratic nation, stories of support from coalition allies will be broadcast across the country from Iraqis who were there, on-station, in the Persian Gulf.
"We will make reports and send them all over the world to see what we did," said Khalas. "Iraqis will see what is here in the Arabian Gulf, and how the Americans are here to help in training and offering protection for the platforms. It's very good to be involved in this."
For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc.