The commander overseeing U.S. naval forces in the Middle East told Reuters on Thursday that American intelligence showing a threat from Iran will not prevent him from sending an aircraft carrier through the vital Strait of Hormuz, if needed.
Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, did not say whether he would send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group into the strategic waterway off Iran, through which passes a fifth of oil consumed globally.
“If I need to bring it inside the strait, I will do so,” Malloy said in an interview by phone with Reuters. “I’m not restricted in any way, I’m not challenged in any way, to operate her anywhere in the Middle East.”
“It might be a new fielding of technology by Iran,” Malloy said, adding the weaponry “falls under the category of destabilizing and offensive in nature.”
Malloy’s statement comes against the backdrop of growing tensions between Tehran and Washington, sparked by Trump’s decision on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Iran’s iron, steel, aluminium and copper sectors.
The statement came as acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan ordered the deployment of the USS Arlington, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock and more MIM-104 Patriot missile defence systems to the US Central Command (CENTCOM), the command division covering US forces in southwest Asia and northeastern Africa.
The deployment follows National Security Adviser John Bolton’s announcement late last week that the US was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force near Iran, in “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on US interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force”.
The officials also noted growing concerns about the threat from Iran-backed Shi’ite militia in Iraq, which have long avoided any confrontation with U.S. troops under the shared goal of defeating Islamic State, a Sunni militant organization.