Pentagon orders aircraft carrier Nimitz home – NYT

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transits the Strait of Gibraltar, entering the Mediterranean Sea as it continues operations in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility, April 13, 2019. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The United States has sent the aircraft carrier Nimitz home from the Middle East and Africa over the objections of top military advisers, according to U.S. officials.

New York Times cited U.S. officials as saying that acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller had ordered the redeployment of the ship in part as a “de-escalatory” signal to Tehran to avoid stumbling into a crisis in President Trump’s waning days in office.

Senior Pentagon officials said Miller assessed that dispatching the Nimitz now, before the anniversary of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani’s death, could remove what Iranian hardliners see as a provocation that justifies their threats against American military targets, New York Times reported.

In recent days there has been increased concern and vigilance about what Iranian-backed forces might do in the lead up to the anniversary of a Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, according to a U.S. official.

The United States and Iraq have also warned Iran and Iranian-backed militias that any attack on American diplomats or military personnel would be met with swift retaliation, the Wall Stree Journal reported on Friday.

NBC News cited a U.S. official as saying on Friday that the United States had seen increasing indirections that Iran could be planning an attack against American forces or interests in the Middle East.

The official further said that reading Iran’s intensions was “difficult and at times unpredictable”, adding that the indications were being taken seriously.

Esmail Ghaani who succeeded Soleimani as head of the elite Quds Force said on Friday that Iran was still ready to respond.

“From inside your own house, there may emerge someone who will retaliate for your crime,” he said at a televised event to mark the anniversary at Tehran University.

“American mischief will not deter the Quds force from carrying on its resistance path,” he added.

Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller told NBC News in a statement late Thursday that the United States continue to “watch Iran very closely”.

“While it is my hope that we enter 2021 peacefully and without conflict, the Department is at the ready to defend the American people and her interests,” he said.

Two U.S. B-52 bombers flew over the Middle East on December 30 in what U.S. officials said was a message of deterrence to Iran ahead of the first anniversary.

On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused U.S. President Donald Trump of attempting to fabricate a pretext to attack Iran, and said Tehran would defend itself forcefully.

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