Washington: The White House has announced that the US was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East because of “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” related to Iran.
A statement from US National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday, said: “In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the US is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on US interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” CNN reported.
“The US is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”
The announcement did not give any further information on the reasons for the commitment of military forces.
An American military official told The News York Times on Sunday night that whatever threat Bolton cited had most likely emerged in the previous 24 to 48 hours because as of late Friday, military analysts were not tracking any new, imminent or clearly defined Iranian or Iranian-backed threats against Americans in Iraq or the region.
When asked by reporters about Bolton’s statement on a flight to Finland, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “It’s something we’ve been working on for a little while.
“It is absolutely the case that we have seen escalatory actions from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests.
“If these actions take place, if they do by some third-party proxy, a militia group, Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranian leadership directly accountable for that.”
Department of Defence spokesman Chris Sherwood confirmed the deployment in a statement to CNN: “I can confirm that the Department of Defence is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region.”
The carrier group heading to the Persian Gulf is that of the USS Abraham Lincoln, which has been in the Mediterranean Sea. There is no carrier strike group currently in the Persian Gulf, but such groups often transit through those waters since the Suez Canal is in the region.
At the end of April, the Abraham Lincoln and its fleet of accompanying ships trained alongside other American vessels and military units from the UK, Spain and France.
Sunday’s announcement comes after President Donald Trump’s administration has already taken a series of hard-line policies against Iran.
A year ago, Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal that world powers had reached with Iran in 2015, and he has since imposed harsh sanctions.
Earlier last month, the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation. The move imposes economic penalties and travel restrictions on members of the group, and anyone else who deals with it.
In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on April 30 signed a bill into law that declared all American troops in the Middle East terrorists and labelled the US government a state sponsor of terrorism.