The US is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region in the Middle East in response to “troubling” warnings from Iran, the White House announced Sunday.
A US official with direct knowledge of the situation tells CNN the threats were against both US maritime and land-based forces in the Middle East. The deployments are aimed specifically at deterring any Iranian military actions, the official added.
A statement from US national security adviser John Bolton reads:
“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 US Central Command region to send 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.”
“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,” the statement continues.
Two US officials tell CNN that the very public statements are aimed at deterring Iran. There is no indication any action by Iran is imminent.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan approved the deployments on Sunday because of “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces are making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region (Middle East),” according to the US official.
The bomber task force is making preparations to get underway. Officials did not say what kind of bombers were being deployed or where they would come from.
The US Air Force pulled B-1 bombers from an airbase in Qatar in March after six-month deployment, according to the website of Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, to which the bombers returned.
The US Navy has been without an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf since early April, when the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group departed to head to the Mediterranean for exercises with the Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, according to the US Naval Institute’s Fleet and Marine Tracker.
It was the first time two carriers operated in the Mediterranean since 2016, and US officials portrayed at the time as a show of US resolve toward Russia.
Also in the Lincoln strike group are the cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the guided-missile destroyers USS Bainbridge, USS Mason and USS Nitze, according to a Navy release from early April, which also said a Spanish destroyer would be operating with the strike group for its entire deployment.
The USNI tracker says the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and its escorts were in the Persian Gulf as of April 29.
Department of Defense spokesman Chris Sherwood told CNN in a statement, “I can confirm that the Department of Defense is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region.”