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US carrier Nimitz moves to Persian Gulf after top Iranian nuke scientist assassinated

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) transits the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elliot Schaudt)
November 30, 2020

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CNV-68) was ordered back to the Persian Gulf, and news of the carrier’s movement came the same day that a top Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in an ambush attack. U.S. officials said the carrier movement was not linked to any specific threat, however.

The Pentagon and the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet announced the Nimitz’s return to the Persian Gulf in Friday statements provided to USA Today. While the announcement of the Nimitz’s movement to the Persian Gulf came hours after top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush attack in Tehran, 5th Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich did not say the U.S. aircraft carrier’s movement was related.

“There were no specific threats that triggered the return of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group,” Rebarich said.

The attack on Fakhrizadeh reportedly included a bomb blast and gunfire targeting his vehicle. Iran’s semi-official state media outlet Fars News reported that Fakhrizadeh’s security team fought back against the attackers and three or four of the attackers were killed in the fighting.

Iran has blamed the U.S. and Israel for Fakhrizadeh’s death and Iranian President Hassan Rohani accused Israel of acting as a “mercenary” for the U.S. in connection with the killing. Rohani said Iran will respond “in due time.”

In its statement to USA Today, the Pentagon also said the Nimitz’s movement was meant to coincide with U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan and “ensures we have sufficient capability available to respond to any threat and to deter any adversary from acting against our troops during the force reduction.”

CNN reporter Barbara Starr also tweeted, “Just In: The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is being moved back into the Persian Gulf region along with other warships to provide combat support and air cover as US troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan by January 15 under President Trump’s orders a defense official tells CNN.

Starr added, “The official said the move was decided before news came of the assassination of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist. But the movement of the US forces is an increased deterrence message to Iran regardless the official noted.”

Military Times reported the Nimitz’ movement is unusual because the aircraft carrier has already spent months in the Persian Gulf region this year.

On Saturday, the 5th Fleet tweeted indicating the Nimitz was in the Arabian Sea, neighboring the Persian Gulf. The fleet tweeted, “The @USNavy will fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows. 🇺🇸 #ForceToBeReckonedWith Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Carrier Air Wing 17 conduct flight operations in the Arabian Sea, Nov. 27.”