According to an announcement made by National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday night, the United States is sending the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in order “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.” Bolton has stated that the deployment was a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” on Tehran’s part, but he didn’t elaborate. These type of announcements are rarely ever announced ahead of time.
Bolton said: “[A]ny attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force. 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.”
According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is scheduled to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Finland on Monday, the deployment is “something we’ve been working on for a little while” and “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.”
The strike group, which includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, and destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 2, left the Naval Station Norfolk on April 1 for a “regularly scheduled deployment.” Rear. Adm. John Wade is commanding the strike force.
The USS John Stennis aircraft carrier strike group was in the Persian Gulf as recently as the end of March. The USS Abraham and the Stennis have recently joined forces in the Mediterranean Sea.
This deployment comes only one month after President Trump’s administration declared Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be a terrorist organization. At the end of March, the United States Air Force took its bombers out of Qatar, which is one of the first times this has happened since 2001.
Just last month, the Air Force deployed a task force of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Middle East for the first time. According to the Air Force, just last week, some of those jets carried out their first air strike against ISIS.
According to Axios, Trump’s administration was preparing to announce an entirely new set of sanctions against Iran on Wednesday. This comes just one year after the United States pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In a report from the Wall Street Journal last week, the White House was thinking about introducing sanctions that targeted petrochemical and consumer goods sales by Iran, but according to Axios, the sanctions that are to be announced this week are going to target a different sector of Iran’s economy.
The U.S. Navy has said that there have been zero cases of “unsafe” interactions between U.S. warships and Iranian forces this year. This deployment also comes alongside the bloodiest fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip for five years.
Last Friday, the Iran-backed militant group Islamic Jihad injured two Israeli soldiers. Saturday evening, the Israeli military made an announcement that an airstrike had killed the commander of Hamas, Hamed al-Khoudary, who Israel claims was a key player in transferring funds to the militant group.