Sun, May 12, 2019 - Page 5 News List

US sends warship, Patriots to Mideast

‘CLEAR MESSAGE’:The USS ‘Arlington,’ which transports marines and landing craft, is joining a carrier strike group and a B-52 bomber task force amid ‘threats’ from Iran

AFP, WASHINGTON

The USS Arlington leaves Morehead City, North Carolina, on Dec. 19 last year.

Photo: AFP / US Marine

The Pentagon on Friday announced that it was deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to bolster an aircraft carrier force sent to counter alleged threats from Iran.

The USS Arlington, which transports marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft, and the Patriot air defense system are to join the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a B-52 bomber task force headed toward the Gulf after intelligence reports suggested Iran was planning some sort of attack in the region.

The deployment is “in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies,” it said. “The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region.”

The US late last year removed Patriot missile batteries from Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan. It was not clear if the battery would go back to one of those countries.

On Sunday last week, US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton announced the deployment of the Lincoln group and bombers saying he wanted to send a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran about any attack against the US or its partners in the region.

In an advisory posted on Thursday, the US Maritime Administration said that since early this month there had been an increased possibility of Iran or its regional proxies taking action against US and partner interests.

“Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf,” it said.

“Reporting indicates heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and interests,” it added.

Iran dismissed the deployment of the Lincoln as old news, but followed it with an announcement that it would suspend some of its commitments under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers abandoned by the US last year.

Amid the rising tensions, Trump on Thursday said that he is open to talks with Tehran’s leadership.

“What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“We don’t want them to have nuclear weapons — not much to ask,” he said.

However, Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards said that the country would not negotiate with the US, a stance that seemed partly aimed at discouraging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies from taking up the offer.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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