The USS John C. Stennis and its accompanying ships, which are currently moving through the Indian Ocean, will arrive in the Persian Gulf by the end of this week, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing unnamed military officials.
If true, this will be the first time in eight months that the US steps up its military presence in the region to such levels, the officials said. That’s the longest period Washington has gone without an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf in the past two decades.
The naval deployment is a direct response to Iran’s influence in the region, the officials noted.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May, saying he would subject Tehran to a series of tough economic sanctions unless the Islamic Republic agrees to stop supporting anti-terror groups in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
He has also called on Iran to scrap its development and testing of ballistic missiles.
On Monday, the Trump administration asked Europe to impose new sanctions on Iran after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Iran had test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile.
In order to persuade his European peers, Pompeo said the missile was considered capable of carrying nuclear warheads and could reach parts of the Europe.
Iran, however, said its missile program was “defensive” in nature and Tehran had every right to develop and test its missiles under the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorse the nuclear deal.
USS Stennis would also provide support to the ongoing US military interventions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
The strike group is scheduled to spend most of its two-month deployment in the Persian Gulf, a presence that unnamed officials said “certainly provides a deterrence” against Tehran.
The arrival of the warship “provides a lot of great flexibility,” another defense official said.
US aircraft carriers have long been patrolling the Persian Gulf, carrying thousands of personnel and dozens of fighter jets, missiles and other weapons.
But the deployments stopped in March after the USS Theodore Roosevelt left for the Pacific, as part of the Trump administration’s shift of strategy to focus more on China and Russia.
As a result of the new approach, Washington also pulled a number of Patriot missile systems out of Persian Gulf countries Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Officials stressed that, despite escalating tensions, the carrier deployment had been previously scheduled.
Iran has repeatedly warned foreign military forces in the Persian Gulf that any act of transgression into Iran’s territorial waters would be met with an immediate and befitting response.