On Sunday night, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced that the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz will remain in the Middle East, citing “threats” from Iranian leaders. The announcement is a reversal from Miller’s earlier decision to bring the warship back to the US.
Miller’s earlier decision to bring the Nimitz out of the region was seen as a possible de-escalation from the US. The reversal is a sign that the US will continue to ratchet up tensions with Iran in the Trump administration’s final days.
According to a report from CNN, President Trump directed Miller to keep the Nimitz in the Middle East. An unnamed Pentagon official told CNN that Miller’s decision to de-escalate had not been adopted as a “formal, approved policy.”
“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,” Miller said in a statement.
It’s not clear what “threats” Miller is referring to. Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the US assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. In the weeks leading up to the anniversary, some Iranian leaders have made firm statements about further revenge for Soleimani, but it did not amount to direct threats on Trump or other US officials. The comments were typical of the revolutionary language used by leaders of the Islamic Republic.
Iranian leaders have also made statements responding to increased US and Israeli provocations. In November, a report said President Trump considered bombing an Iranian nuclear site. Since then, the US flew B-52 bombers to the region on three separate occasions, and in a major escalation, Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an apparent Israeli plot.
Despite Iran’s clear interest in avoiding a military confrontation with the US before President Trump leaves office, US officials have been warning of imminent Iranian attacks.