On December 31st, the US Department of Defense decided to withdraw the only Navy aircraft carrier operating in the Middle East.
The decision by the acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller, came one day after Air Force B-52 bombers flew nonstop from the United States to the Persian Gulf in a show of force that military officials said was intended to caution Iran against carrying out attacks against U.S. forces or interests.
Sending the aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz would appear counter to the idea to pressure Iran.
In the days leading up to the withdrawal of the warship, an American military officer close to the situation told reporters that the U.S. had detected signs that Iran had made preparations for possible attacks on U.S. or allied targets in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump recently cited “chatter” that Iran might strike.
Days after a December 20th rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups, Trump tweeted that Iran was on notice.
“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,” Trump wrote on December 23rd. ”We hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq.”
The U.S. has maintained a near-continuous aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf region since the USS Abraham Lincoln was sent in May 2019 amid concerns that Iran was considering attacking U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. also sent additional land-based attack planes and reestablished a troop presence in Saudi Arabia.
The Nimitz deployed from the U.S. in April and was due to return before the end of the year. In early December, its planned return was postponed, in part out of concerns about potential Iranian threats, and more recently it was ordered to provide support off the coast of Somalia for the movement of American forces out of the country.
Nimitz had recently been called to the coast of Africa to support American troop movements in and out of Somalia. The ship had been called back to the Persian Gulf region in December to support troop withdrawals in the Middle East with its fleet of more than 60 aircraft.
“The secretary appreciates the hard work, commitment, and flexibility of more than 5,000 sailors and Marines of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group who repeatedly demonstrated operational excellence in providing air support to combat operations against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and ensuring maritime security in critical waterways,” said Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
Hoffman said the Nimitz “provided persistent air cover during the troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and conducted operations,” as well as participated in exercises with navies from the region in exercises “that strengthened enduring partnerships and alliances.”
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Iranian President Vows Soleimani Killing Will Not Go Unpunished In Eerie Warning To US President Donald Trump
- Israel Sends Submarine To Persian Gulf. Iran Is Preparing To Repel US-Israeli Attacks