The United States is deploying 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 Islamic Republic of Iran, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton announced Sunday.
The White House official said the U.S. was acting “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” In a statement, Bolton stressed “that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
Officials with direct knowledge of the situation said the deployment of the warship was based on a possible attack on both U.S. maritime and land-based forces in the region. They told CNN Wednesday that Iran appears to be moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf in response to the U.S. deployment.
“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime,” Bolton clarified in his statement. But he emphasized that, “We are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or regular Iranian forces.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday night that, “We will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests,” adding, “if they do by some third-party proxy, a Shiite militia group, the Houthis or Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranian leadership directly accountable for that.”
Pompeo also confirmed that the deployments had been in the works for “a little while.” U.S. officials expressed concern in April that the regime in Tehran could respond to the designation of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) as a foreign terrorist organization by targeting U.S. facilities and personnel around the Middle East.
Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed into law a bill that designated all U.S. forces in the Middle East as terrorists and declared the U.S. government a sponsor of terrorism.
The White House also announced last month that it would end exemptions from sanctions for five countries – China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey – that were still buying Iranian oil. Iran has repeatedly threatened to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz – through which almost one-third of the world’s oil supply passes.
[Photo: Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr]