The White House has announced the deployment of USS Lincoln carrier strike group and bomber task force to the US central command region in the Middle East. The move is in response to what National Security Adviser John Bolton said were ""number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran.
The deployments were approved by the acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan, and the strike group includes aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 2. A carrier strike group usually involves aircraft carrier, cruisers, destroyer squadrons, frigates and thousands of military personnel. The Navy said the strike group departed from the Naval Station Norfolk on April 1 for a "regularly scheduled deployment," Fox News reported.
The USS John Stennis aircraft carrier strike group, which was in the Persian Gulf in late March according to earlier reports, has joined forces with USS Abraham Lincoln in recent days.
Bolton said in a statement Sunday that the deployment is aimed at sending "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." He further added that the United States was not seeking to go to war with Iran but they are fully prepared to respond to any attacks. Bolton's statement did not make clear what actions from Iran may have prompted sudden increase of security in the region.
When asked about the announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated Bolton's statement and said, "We will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests," reported The Washington Post.
The deployment comes days after President Donald Trump's administration imposed new limits on Iran's nuclear activities. Last month Trump announced that the United States will not exempt any nation from U.S sanctions if they buy Iranian oil.
Iran has the world's second largest oil reserves in the world. The country's economy is under a squeeze from U.S. sanctions, which have been exacerbated by internal differences over economic policy and power struggles among the ruling Islamic clerics.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard was recently designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. This was after Trump withdrew from former president Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and reinforced several sanctions against those targeting Iran's oil, banking and shipping sectors.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.