US deploys aircraft carrier and bombers after ‘troubling indications’ from Iran
National security adviser John Bolton says any Iranian attack on US or its allies will be met with ‘unrelenting force’
The Guardian. Sun 5 May 2019 21.43 EDT
The US is sending an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East in response to a “number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran, the national security advisor John Bolton has said.
It was unclear on Sunday night what Iranian actions Bolton was referring to. There have been no recent incidents in the Persian Gulf where US and Iranian navies are routinely in close proximity and the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group was already bound for the Gulf a month before Bolton made his announcement.
However, the tone of Bolton’s declaration looked likely to escalate tensions in the region, and it comes days after the Iranian government expressed concern that Bolton and other hawks were seeking to draw the Trump administration into a new war.
In a written statement, Bolton said the ships and planes were intended “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
“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,” the statement said.
Rotations of aircraft carrier “strike groups” and bomber fleets happen routinely. At present there are none in the US Central Command region, which encompasses the Middle East and Afghanistan. The Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, left its base in Norfolk, Virginia, on 1 April and was due to sail to the Mediterranean for exercises and then on to the Gulf.
The US withdrew its B-1 bombers from the Middle East in March for maintenance and upgrades amid concerns the bomber force was over-stretched.
While such changes in global deployment are made regularly, it is rare for the announcement of such deployments to be made by a national security advisor rather than the Pentagon.
“A carrier into CentCom is not unusual and was likely routine and long planned,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former state department and Pentagon official, now a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security in Washington. “The inflammatory language from Bolton is unusual provocative but my guess is just an opportunity to try to intimidate the Iranians. Nothing more.”
Bolton has been pushing for a tougher stance by the US towards North Korea, Venezuela and Iran. Before taking his White House position, he argued that bombing Iran was the only way to stop it acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Last May, the Trump administration walked out of a multilateral agreement with Iran by which Tehran accepted strict curbs on its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. Since then the US has threatened sanctions against any companies or individuals around the world doing business with Iran, and has sought to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified that Iran continues to meet its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, and other parties to the agreement, the UK, France, Germany, European Union, Russia and China, also insist they will honour its terms, despite US pressure.
During a visit to New York last month, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, warned that what he called a “B Team” consisting of Bolton, Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Emirati crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed and his Saudi counterpart Mohammed bin Salman, were seeking to goad the US and Iran into a conflict.
“We don’t believe that President Trump wants confrontation. But, we know that there are people who are pushing for one,” Zarif told the CBS programme, Face the Nation. “I think the US administration is putting things in place for accidents to happen. And there has to be extreme vigilance, so that people who are planning this type of accident would not have their way.”
Bolton gave no details of the alleged “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran. Mark Dubowitz, the head of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies who has long supported a tough approach to Iran, argued that Hamas rocket attacks against Israel could have been orchestrated by Iran as part of a campaign against the US and its regional allies.
“Actually, ‘intimidating’ the regime in Iran by promising overwhelming force in response to intel that they may be considering striking US assets or allies is called deterrence and could help dissuade them,” Dubowitz wrote on Twitter.
Categories: Rumors and Threats of Wars