The Pentagon has ordered the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz to stay in the Middle East because of threats from Tehran against President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials in an order three days after the warship was sent home in an effort to de-escalate tensions that had been growing with Iran.
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller on Sunday ordered the ship's routine redeployment halted, issuing a short statement that said the ship will "remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America," reports The New York Times.
The ship had been ordered redeployed to its homeport in Bremerton, Wash., after its 10-month deployment.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week, in a speech to his Islamic nation's cabinet, declared Trump would be dead "in a few days" as the first anniversary of the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, approached. Suleimani was killed in a U.S.-ordered drone strike.
Intelligence agencies have assessed for months that Iran wants to target senior American military officers and civilian leaders to avenge Soleimani's death.
Trump administration officials suggested Sunday that with the week in politics looming that includes the Senate runoff race in Georgia Tuesday and the meeting of the House and Senate on Wednesday to certify President-elect Joe Biden's win, the optics of the Nimitz leaving the Middle East was not suitable for the White House, the Times reported.
Trump threatened Iran on Twitter just before Christmas, and top national security aides in November talked him out of launching a pre-emptive strike against a nuclear site in Iran.
In recent weeks, the Pentagon's Central Command has made several public shows of force to warn Iran about attacks on U.S. troops and diplomats, including using the Nimitz with other warships for air cover for troops pulling out of Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan.
The Air Force has also dispatched B-52 bombers to fly near Iran's coast and the Navy announced that it has ordered a submarine with cruise missiles, for the first time in 10 years, into the Persian Gulf.
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