The US this week will deploy a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East to safeguard US allies and troops, said National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday.
The move comes in response to “a number of troubling and escalating indications and warnings,” he added, remaining vague on the details.
The deployment relocates the USS Abraham Lincoln and its accompanying ships from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, and potentially to the Arabian Sea or Persian Gulf.
Last month, Air Force F-35 stealth fighter jets were deployed to the Middle East for the first time.
“Shifting additional forces to the Middle East as a deterrent against Iran would represent something of a course correction for the Pentagon, which has sought to move forces away from the region so it could build up its capability to deter possible aggression by Russia and China,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
Officials confirmed the deployment is unrelated to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which last week resulted in the death of key Hamas commander Hamed al-Khoudary.
“The US is not seeking war with the Iranian regime,” said Bolton. “But we are prepared to respond to any attacks, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), or regular Iranian forces.
Last month, the Trump Administration designed the IRGC a “terrorist organization.”
This week’s deployment to the Middle East is “something we’ve been working on for a little while,” said Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, adding that Tehran will be held responsible for any attack on American interests. “If these actions take place, if they do by some third-party proxy, a militia group, Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranian leadership directly accountable for that.”
As reported by Axios on Sunday, the Trump Administration is expected to announce additional sanctions designed to hinder the Iranian economy and force it to stop sponsoring terror.