The United States will send an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East in response to “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran, national security adviser John Bolton announced on Sunday.
Bolton, who is known for his hawkish stance on Iran, did not specify what “warnings” the United States was responding to; however, a U.S. official with knowledge of the situation told CNN that threats had been made against “both U.S. maritime and land-based forces in the Middle East.”
Although there has been no indication that “any action by Iran is imminent,” the deployments are meant as a deterrent, the official told the news network.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Sunday that the U.S. had seen “escalatory actions from the Iranians,” AP reported. He refused to elaborate on what these actions entailed, yet insisted that “we have good reason to want to communicate clearly about how the Iranians should understand how we will respond to actions they may take.”
Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank that’s long pushed for tougher action against Iran, suggested the deployments could be linked to the recent escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip. He told Politico that there had been “real concern in the [Trump] administration and among allies, including Israel, that the regime in Iran is preparing to strike U.S. interests or U.S. allies.”
Dubowitz said the administration was worried that the attacks against Israel in Gaza by Hamas and Islamic Jihad ― both groups believed to have backing from Iran ― could be a ploy by the Iranians to distract the Israelis from other potential strikes.
Pompeo disagreed and told reporters that the deployments were “separate” from the Gaza attacks.