NEW YORK, USA: The United States has reversed a decision to bring an aircraft carrier home from the Gulf, with the Pentagon saying that due to “recent threats” by Iran, the USS Nimitz would stay in position.
The Nimitz has been patrolling Gulf waters since late November. In a statement on December 31, acting US Defense Secretary Christopher C Miller ordered the vessel to “transit directly home to complete a nearly 10-month deployment”.
The New York Times newspaper, quoting US officials, said the move was part of a “de-escalatory” signal to Tehran to avoid a conflict during President Donald Trump’s last days in office.
However, Miller issued a new statement changing course on Sunday.
“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other US government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment,” said the statement.
“The USS Nimitz will now remain on station in the US Central Command area of operations. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America.”
While he did not elaborate on the threats involved, the statement came on the first anniversary of a US drone raid in Baghdad that killed Iran’s revered commander Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
On Sunday, thousands of Iraqi mourners chanted “revenge” and “no to America” as they marched in capital Baghdad and other cities.
New intelligence from Iraq indicate that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans—putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli.
Be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 2, 2021
The anniversary of the Baghdad drone attack was also marked in recent days across Iran and by supporters in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.
Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in 2018 and launched a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, reimposing and reinforcing crippling sanctions.
The two countries have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019, especially following the killing of Soleimani.
Days after the Soleimani assassination, Iran launched a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing US and other coalition troops, with Trump refraining from any further military response.
US President Donald Trump could take “reckless” military action against Iran in his final days in office, experts have warned, as tensions between Tehran and Washington mount on the eve of the first anniversary of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani’s assassination.
The US flew B-52 bombers over the Gulf three times in the past month, most recently on Wednesday, in what the Trump administration called a deterrence measure to keep Iran from retaliating on January 3, the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing in a US drone strike.
But with less than a month left in the White House, Trump is under pressure from key allies in the Middle East – namely Israel and Saudi Arabia – to take action on Iran, said Danny Postel, assistant director of the Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern University.
“Trump is a very wounded and very cornered animal in an end-game scenario. He’s got a few weeks left, and we know that he is capable of extremely erratic behaviour,” Postel, an expert on Iran and US foreign policy, said in an interview.
“It may be the case that his most erratic, most reckless lashing out is yet to come.”
On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “New intelligence from Iraq indicate[s] that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans – putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli.”