A White House announcement that a U.S. aircraft carrier and a bomber wing would be deployed in the Persian Gulf to counter Iran comes just days ahead of the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal, AP/Fox News reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is planning a speech Wednesday on the anniversary to discuss the next steps Tehran will take in confronting the U.S. Iranian officials previously warned that Tehran might increase its uranium enrichment, potentially pulling away from a deal it has sought to salvage for months.
The military has almost always had an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf as part of its sprawling military presence in the strategic region, but had begun to scale back its presence as the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria wound down, AP adds.
Sunday night’s statement from national security adviser John Bolton said the USS Abraham Lincoln, other ships in the carrier’s strike group and a bomber wing would deploy to the Mideast. Bolton blamed “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” without elaborating.
“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,” Bolton said.
Iranian media on Monday quoted an anonymous official as saying that Rouhani planned a broadcast address Wednesday and may discuss the “counteractions” Tehran will take over America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
“Partial and total reduction of some of Iran’s commitments and resumption of some nuclear activities which were ceased following (the deal) are the first step,” ISNA said. Iranian state television and the semi-official Fars news agency similarly suggested an Iranian response loomed.
A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Keivan Khosravi, also dismissed Bolton’s comments as “psychological warfare.”
The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog says Iran has continued to comply with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw it limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But American sanctions have wreaked havoc on Iran’s already-anemic economy, while promised help from European partners in the deal haven’t alleviated the pain.
The U.S. last week stopped issuing waivers for countries importing Iranian crude oil, a crucial source of cash for Iran’s government, AP noted.