The US will deploy an aircraft carrier and bomber task force to the US Central Command region to send “a clear message to the Iranian regime” that any attack on US interests will be met with “unrelenting force”, national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday.
Mr Bolton said that while the US was not “seeking war” with Iran, it was “fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces”.
Although it is unclear where the carrier will be sent specifically, US Central Command is responsible for the country’s military operations in Egypt, the Middle East and central Asia.
The move comes as the US significantly escalates pressure on Tehran. In recent weeks Washington has made a bid to reduce Iran’s oil exports “to zero” by ending all sanctions waivers for countries importing crude.
The US has also recently branded Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organisation, the first time it formally labelled part of another country’s government as terrorists.
Mr Bolton said the move by the US to deploy its USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and bombers was a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings”. The National Security Council did not respond to requests for further detail.
President Donald Trump withdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and moved to reimpose sanctions.
In April, the IMF reported that US sanctions against Iran have triggered a collapse in economic growth, pushing the Islamic republic into a deep recession and lifting inflation towards 40 per cent. The fund linked its forecast of a 6 per cent contraction in Iran this year with Mr Trump’s efforts to tighten an economic squeeze on the country.