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US sending aircraft carrier, bombers to Middle East in ‘clear message’ to Iran

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group ships with fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7). (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stephen D. Doyle II/U.S. Navy)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States is deploying additional military resources to the Middle East in a “clear message” to Iran, the White House has said.

“In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region,” national-security adviser John Bolton said in a statement on May 5.

Bolton said the military deployment to the area, which includes the Middle East, is aimed at sending “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

He said the United States is “not seeking war with the Iranian regime” but that it is “fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”

The statement did not specify why the deployment is taking place now, but it comes as Washington has ramped up pressure on the Iranian government as it seeks to end what it calls Tehran’s “malign” activities in the region.

The administration of President Donald Trump has recently announced it had decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions, in an attempt to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero.

It has also designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, marking the first time Washington has officially used that label on a foreign state institution.

The United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May 2018, and later reimposed sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, shipping, and banking sectors.

Trump said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq. Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles.

Reuters quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force “have been ordered to the region as a deterrence to what has been seen as potential preparations by Iranian forces and its proxies that may indicate possible attacks on U.S. forces in the region.”

The official said the United States was not expecting any imminent attack on U.S. forces.

The Abraham Lincoln and its strike group of ships and combat aircraft have recently been operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Bolton’s reference to the Central Command region would mean the force is headed to the Red Sea and perhaps then to the Persian Gulf, where the U.S. Navy currently has no aircraft carrier, AP reported.

His statement also suggests that Washington is deploying land-based bomber aircraft in the region.