As the United States announced an expanded military buildup in the volatile Persian Gulf region, an Iranian military leader talked of “opportunities” and targets.
The U.S. initially said it was sending a task force of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the region as well as the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group. On Friday, the U.S. said that force will be augmented by the USS Arlington.
A Patriot missile battery, used to shoot down incoming missiles, is also being dispatched to the region.
The Arlington will carry with it elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, USNI News reported.
“USS Arlington is a San Antonio-class ship that transports U.S. Marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft with the capability to support amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions,” Friday’s Pentagon statement said.
USS Abraham Lincoln passing through Suez Canal in Egypt (Photo: US Navy) pic.twitter.com/U1wS9OPT4J
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) May 9, 2019
The buildup was met with defiance from Iran.
“An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, according to Iranian media cited by Fox News.
“If [the Americans] make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he said
The U.S. move has launched a barrage of anti-American rhetoric from Iran.
“Their billion[-dollar] fleet can be destroyed with one missile,” Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad said recently, according to Fox.
“If they attempt any move, they will … [face] dozens of missiles because at that time [government] officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei],” he said.
Iranian navy commander Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi said U.S. forces must leave the region.
“The presence of the Americans in the Persian Gulf region has reached its end and they must leave the region,” Khanzadi said, according to Reuters.
The seriousness of the Iranian situation was underscored Monday when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delayed a planned trip to Moscow to go to Brussels instead to discuss Persian Gulf security issues with representatives of France, Britain and Germany, CNN reported.
Pompeo has said that the U.S. is responding to a real threat against American interests in the region.
“We’ve seen this reporting,” Pompeo said, according to CNBC. “It’s real. It appears to be something that is current, that is, things we’re worried about today.”
“In the event that Iran decided to come after an American interest — whether that be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or any place in the Middle East — we are prepared to respond in an appropriate way … our aim is not war,” he said.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran came as Saudi Arabia reported that two of its tankers were attacked in what it termed an “act of sabotage” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
Although the statement by Saudi Minister for Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Falih said no oil was spilled, the ships sustained “significant damage,” The Washington Post reported.
A regional warning has been issued by the U.S. Maritime Administration, CNN reported Thursday.
“Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz,” said the warning, which was issued last week.
“Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait or the Persian Gulf.”
CORRECTION, May 14, 2019: This article mistakenly referred to the “22nd Marine Expeditionary Force” when first published. It should have referred to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is an element of the II Marine Expeditionary Force. We corrected the reference after our error was pointed out by a reader.
We apologize for any confusion we may have caused.
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