Sputnik – Earlier, the Pentagon confirmed that a carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln nuclear-powered aircraft carrier had arrived in the US 5th Fleet’s area of operations in the Middle East, with Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton calling the deployment a “clear message” to Iran not to attack US interests in the region.
Senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabai-Nejad has dismissed the US carrier group’s deployment in the Middle East, suggesting that the fleet could be easily destroyed in the event of war.
“Their billion-dollar fleet can be destroyed with one missile,” Tabatabai-Nejad said, speaking in Isfahan on Friday, Reuters has reported, citing local media.
“If they attempt any move, they will [face] dozens of missiles because at that time government officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader,” the cleric added, referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Earlier, US Department of Defence spokesperson Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told Sputnik that the USS Abraham Lincoln had arrived in the US Navy’s Middle Eastern area of operations on Thursday, with the deployment following the arrival of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers in the region a day earlier.
The deployment comes following back-to-back warnings by John Bolton and Secretary of State that the US would retaliate to any Iranian attack against the US or its allies with “unrelenting force.” On Wednesday, US Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie called Iran and its “malign ambitions” the biggest threat to his area of responsibility and the world, and said that while the US wasn’t looking to pick a fight with Tehran, it wouldn’t shy away from one either, boasting that “if a fight is to be had…it won’t be a fair fight.”
Iran dismissed the carrier group’s deployment as an “unskillful” attempt at waging “psychological war against Iran.”
Earlier, US officials told CNN that Iran was reportedly moving short-range ballistic missiles by sea in the Persian Gulf area ahead of the US carrier group’s arrival. Tehran has not commented on the reports.
Iran is known to have a large arsenal of domestically developed conventional short-, medium- and long-range missile systems, including long-range ballistic and cruise capabilities. The US, Europe, Saudi Arabia and Israel have called these weapons a threat to regional security, while Tehran has insisted that the missiles were a “non-negotiable” deterrent for its security.
Long-standing tensions between Iran and the US escalated again in recent weeks after the US refused to renew waivers to secondary sanctions on several major importers of Iranian crude oil. Iran announced Wednesday that it would discontinue some of its commitments under the nuclear deal and would resume enriching uranium at higher levels after a 60 day period. Washington reneged on the nuclear deal in May 2018, slapping Tehran with a series of increasingly tough banking and energy sanctions in a bid to cripple the country’s economy.