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US sends carrier, bombers to Middle East as Iran tensions increase

10 May 2019
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A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber taxis on a runway at an undisclosed base in the CENTCOM area of responsibility on 8 May. A Qatari C-17 transport aircraft and hangars identical to those at Qatar’s Al-Udeid Air Base can be seen in the background. Source: US Air Force

The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) and B-52s have deployed to the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) in a move that National Security Advisor John Bolton said would “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime”.

The US Navy said ABECSG arrived in the CENTCOM and 5th Fleet area of responsibility when it transited the Suez Canal on 9 May. The US Navy was planning to send the aircraft carrier to the Middle East during its current deployment, but the move was brought forward, the US military confirmed.

US Air Force Central Command announced on 8 May that B-52H bombers from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron had arrived in the CENTCOM region. It released photographs showing a B-52H at an undisclosed location that could be identified as Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Bolton announced the deployments on 5 May, saying it was a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” that he did not describe. On the following day, Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan described the deployments as “a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces”.

CENTCOM spokesman Captain Bill Urban stated that there were “indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region”.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he visited Iraq – where Iranian-backed armed groups operate – instead of Germany on 7 May due to the threat. He tweeted that he had underlined “the need for Iraq to protect diplomatic facilities and coalition personnel” during meetings with Iraqi leaders.

CNN cited defence officials as saying that one of multiple indications was that Iran was moving short-range ballistic missiles on boats in the Gulf. It is unclear if these missiles could be launched from the boats or if they are being transported for use by Iranian land forces, CNN reported.

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