The US is sending a battery of Patriot missiles to join the carrier strike group and bomber task force currently “protecting” American interests in the Middle East from Iran, still insisting the buildup is merely defensive.
The missiles and transport ship USS Arlington are being deployed to the region “in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests,” according to a Pentagon statement.
While the Pentagon continues to insist it “does not seek conflict with Iran,” it is “postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region,” according to the statement.
The latest round of heavy weaponry joins the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and an Air Force bomber task force, both of which arrived in the Central Command region this week to send an “unmistakable message,” in the words of National Security Advisor John Bolton, that the US is prepared to unleash “unrelenting force” in response to any provocation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed the threat on Thursday, promising a “swift and decisive” response to an attack by Iran – or its proxies.
Details about the “intelligence” used as a pretext for the military buildup have been scarce, though multiple reports suggest the tip came from Israel’s Mossad, which is far from a neutral source when it comes to Iran. A CNN report on Friday claimed “intelligence has shown” Iran is “likely” loading short-range ballistic and cruise missiles onto boats belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which President Donald Trump conveniently declared a terrorist organization last month. The US military, CNN said, “believes that cruise missiles could be launched from the small Iranian boats.”
“We have been very clear that we have no interest in escalation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told Al Jazeera earlier this week, adding that Iran would not “permit the US to threaten the Persian Gulf.” Last month, he warned Trump that the more hawkish members of his administration might conduct a false-flag attack to push the US into war with Iran. On Friday, the US Maritime Administration issued a warning that “Iran or its proxies” may target commercial and military vessels in the area, advising commercial ships to alert the US’ Fifth Fleet several days in advance before accessing the Strait of Hormuz.