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US says sending ‘strike group’ to West Asia as ‘clear message’ to Iran

The United States is sending an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the West Asia in a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran, declared John Bolton, the hawkish US national security advisor.

“The United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region,” Bolton said in a Sunday statement.

The move, he said, is aimed at sending a “clear and unmistakable message” to Iran that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

Bolton said the decision was “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”

He said the US “is not seeking war” with Iran, but it is “fully prepared to respond to any attack”, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) or regular Iranian forces, Bolton said in a statement.

Bolton did not provide any further details, but a US official said the forces “have been ordered to the region as a deterrence to what has been seen as potential preparations by Iranian forces and its proxies that may indicate possible attacks on US forces in the region.”

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the United States was not expecting any imminent attack on US forces, Reuters reported.

The move by the US comes as it had earlier vowed to cut Iran’s oil exports down to zero, prompting Tehran to warn that it will not allow any other country to export oil through the Strait of Hormuz if Tehran cannot sell its crude.

Meanwhile, the deployment seems to be a “regularly scheduled” one by the US Navy, and Bolton has just tried to talk it up.

Back on April 8, the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) Public Affairs announced that the Strike Group has departed a naval station in Virginia on April 1 for “a regularly scheduled deployment.”

Therefore, what Bolton describes as a “response” to Iran’s warning does not seem to be genuine, as the ABECSG started its mission long before Iran’s warning.

Back on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran does not seek to escalate tensions with the United States, but it will not let Washington disrupt the security of Persian Gulf, the “lifeline of Iran”.

“We have been very clear that we have no interest in escalation,” Zarif said in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera TV.

“We have been clear that the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz are our lifeline. We depend on them for our livelihood, and we want them safe, secure, and free for navigation of all countries, including Iran,” he said.