- The US received credible intelligence that Iran was plotting an attack against US interests, including US military forces and civilians, in the Persian Gulf.
- The Pentagon then approved a US Central Command request for additional firepower, according to The New York Times.
- The White House announced on Sunday the redirection of a US Navy carrier strike group and a US Air Force bomber task force to deter Iran with the threat of “unrelenting force” in response to an attack.
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The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force are being sent to “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement on Sunday.
This decision “represents a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces,” acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said on Monday.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the new head of US Central Command, requested the additional firepower on Sunday after reviewing intelligence hinting at a possible Iranian attack on American forces and US interests in the region, The New York Times reported, citing a Department of Defence official.
Shanahan approved the request, and the White House announced it, stressing that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” The White House statement emphasised that the US does not want war with Iran but is ready to respond if attacked.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated this point on Monday. “It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests,” he said.
The intel, according to Israeli media, appears to have come, at least in part, from Israel, which reportedly provided information on a possible Iranian plot against US targets in the region or US allies. Fox News confirmed that the intel came from a friendly intelligence service.
CNN, citing US officials, reported that the intelligence suggested a possible attack on US forces in Syria, Iraq, and at sea. There were reportedly multiple intel threads.
“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing US pressure campaign against them,” an Israeli official told Israeli reporters. “They are considering retaliating against US interests in the Gulf.”
Tensions between Washington and Iran have been on the rise since the Trump administration made the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The US has targeted its military forces and is in the process of trying to cut off Iran’s energy exports.
The latest firepower redirect, which Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson has been celebrating as a shining example of the opportunities provided by the military’s dynamic-force-employment strategy, appears to be the US bringing out the big guns in hopes of being ready for anything.
The Department of Defence called the deployment “a prudent step in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests.”
“It ensures we have the forces we need in the region to respond to contingencies and to defend US forces and interests in the region,” an emailed Pentagon statement said. “We emphasise the White House statement that we do not seek war with the Iranian regime, but we will defend US personnel, our allies and our interests in the region.”
The Lincoln is in the US European Command area of responsibility, operating in the Mediterranean Sea, but it, along with US bomber aircraft, is being redirected on an accelerated timetable to the Persian Gulf, according to the Pentagon.
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