- The US sent tons of firepower to the Middle East to confront a mysterious threat from Iran, but now that those military assets are in the region, it’s holding back.
- The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier has yet to enter the Persian Gulf, where US carriers have sailed for decades, because there are apparent concerns that tensions with Iran could boil over.
- “You don’t want to inadvertently escalate something,” the commander of the Lincoln told The Associated Press, signalling that the US military is trying to leave room for diplomacy while deterring possible Iranian aggression.
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The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier is hanging back outside the Persian Gulf, where US carriers have sailed for decades, amid apparent concerns that tensions with Iran could boil over.
The US deployed a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, and other military assets to the Middle East in May in response to threats posed by Iran. Although the Pentagon has attempted to shed some light on the exact nature of the threat, questions about some of the specifics remain.
One US military asset deployed to US Central Command was the Lincoln, which was rushed into the region with a full carrier air wing of fighters but hasn’t entered the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a vital strategic waterway where Iranian speedboats routinely harass American warships.
As this symbol of American military might sailed into the region, President Donald Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” This stark warning aside, both the White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly emphasised that the purpose of these deployments is deterrence, not war.
When asked by British media Tuesday if the US would attack Iran, Trump replied, “There is always a chance. Do I want to? No, I’d rather not. But there’s always a chance.” Later in that same interview, he said, “I would much rather talk.”
The US has been putting increased pressure on Iran while also offering to negotiate. The US military has meanwhile been keeping the Lincoln out of the Persian Gulf and away from Iran’s doorstep.
The carrier is instead operating in the Arabian Sea. “You don’t want to inadvertently escalate something,” Capt. Putnam Browne, the carrier’s commander, told The Associated Press on Monday.
When the US Navy sent destroyers attached to the carrier strike group through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf, they entered without harassment. But Iranian leaders immediately issued a warning that US ships were in range of their missiles.
Rear Adm. John F.G. Wade, the commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, told The AP the carrier is still in a position to “conduct my mission wherever and whenever needed.” He stressed that the aircraft carrier is there to respond to “credible threats” posed by Iran and Iranian-backed forces in the region.
And the carrier is certainly not sitting idle in the region.
Components of Carrier Air Wing 7 attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln linked up with US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers over the weekend for combined arms exercises that involved simulated strikes. “We are postured to face any threats toward US forces in this region,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, the Combined Forces Air Component commander, said in a statement.
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