U.S. is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Middle East.
By World Israel News Staff and AP
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton announced Sunday night that the U.S. is dispatching the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.”
“The United States 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,” he said.
Mr. Bolton said the decision was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” by Iran. The national security adviser did not offer further details, but the Associated Press later reported that a defense official said that the move was a result of “clear indications” that Iran and its proxy forces were preparing to strike U.S. forces in the region.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said the Pentagon approved the deployments and that U.S. forces at sea and on land were thought to be the potential targets. The official declined to be more specific.
The Pentagon had no immediate comment on the Bolton statement.
The Abraham Lincoln and its strike group of ships and combat aircraft have been operating in the Mediterranean Sea recently. Last Wednesday a group of senior Albanian government officials visited aboard the Lincoln as it sailed in the Adriatic.
Mr. Bolton’s reference to the Central Command area would mean the Lincoln is headed east to the Red Sea and perhaps then to the Arabian Sea or the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy currently has no aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
Mr. Bolton’s mention of deploying a bomber task force suggests the Pentagon is deploying land-based bomber aircraft somewhere in the region, perhaps on the Arabian Peninsula.
Speaking to reporters while flying to Europe, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the actions undertaken by the U.S. had been in the works 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,” Pompeo said. “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.”
Asked about “escalatory actions,” Pompeo replied, “I don’t want to talk about what underlays it, but make no mistake, we have good reason to want to communicate clearly about how the Iranians should understand how we will respond to actions they may take.”
Asked if the Iranian action were related to the deadly events in Gaza and Israel — militants fired rockets into Israel on Sunday and Israel responded with airstrikes — Pompeo said, “It is separate from that.”
The Trump administration has been intensifying a pressure campaign against Iran.
Last month, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, a decision that primarily affects the five remaining major importers: China and India and U.S. treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey.
The U.S. also recently designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group, the first ever for an entire division of another government.
Trump withdrew from the Obama administration’s landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and, in the months that followed, reimposed punishing sanctions including those targeting Iran’s oil, shipping and banking sectors.
Mr. Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have in recent months spoken stridently about Iran and its “malign activities” in the region.