The decision to return the USS Minutes to the region came as a surprise to Pentagon officials
“Because of recent threats by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, the USS Nimitz has ordered the suspension of its routine restructuring,” Miller said in a statement Sunday. “The USS Nimitz will now operate in the U.S. Central Command.
A U.S. government official says the initial decision to bring Miller’s carrier home was made before Iranian leaders made subtle covert threats against Trump. The public announcement that Nimitz would be ordered home eventually came at the same time as the Iranian leaders expressed their views.
The National Security Council declined to comment on reports that Trump directed Carrier’s visit. CNN first reported that Trump was behind the decision to send a plane to the region.
Pentagon officials were surprised by the move last Thursday following the announcement of the ship’s return after a nine-month voyage. U.S. Navy officials also said the ship was scheduled to return to its next deployment from its long deployment, a security official said.
A U.S. official said Miller made the decision despite a request to U.S. Federal Commander General Frank McKenzie to keep a carrier in the region. The move was interpreted as sending a message to Iran that the United States was escalating tensions on the eve of the one – year anniversary of the US airstrikes that killed Iran’s top general Cossem Solomon.
In an interview with ABC News two weeks ago, McKenzie said the United States was in a “high-risk period” with Iran as the anniversary of Solomon’s death approached.
U.S. intelligence estimates that the biggest threat from Iran to US personnel and interests in the region is in Iraq, where U.S. facilities have been rocket-fired in recent years by Iranian-backed militants.
Two weeks ago, the United States blamed Iranian-backed militant groups for firing 21 rockets at the U.S. embassy, the largest attack since 2010.
“The United States must hold Iran accountable for the deaths of any Americans as a result of the work of Iranian-backed rock militia groups,” Sentcom said in a strong statement.
In the run-up to this week’s anniversary, Sentcom demonstrated its defensive capabilities to Iran by flying long-range B-52 strategic bombs to carry out three more flights over the Persian Gulf.
But it is unclear whether the comments by Iranian leaders toward Trump point to increased security risks in the region.
In a speech on Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump would be “soon removed from office, not just from office.”
“As President of the United States, do not assume that someone who appears to be a murderer or has ordered an assassination may be spared justice. Never,” said Ibrahim Raisi, Iran’s top justice official.
On Monday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards captured a South Korean flagged cargo ship in the Persian Gulf “for environmental pollution.” A spokesman for the Fifth Fleet of the U.S. Navy, which oversees U.S. naval operations in the Middle East, said it was monitoring the situation.