Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said Sunday he'd reversed his decision to bring the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz home from the Persian Gulf. He cited "recent threats" from Iran.
The Nimitz has been patrolling Gulf waters since late November, but Miller said Friday he'd ordered the vessel to "transit directly home to complete a nearly 10-month deployment." The Nimitz is based in Washington state.
The New York Times, quoting US officials, said the move was part of a "de-escalatory" signal to Tehran to avoid a conflict in President Donald Trump's last days in office. The Associated Press reported the order was opposed by senior military officials. Miller announced his about-face Sunday evening. "Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment," he said. "The USS Nimitz will now remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America." He didn't elaborate on the threats involved. His statement came one year after a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed Iran's revered commander, Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Thousands of Iraqi mourners chanted "revenge" and "no to America" in a massive demonstration in Tehran on Sunday. The anniversary of the Baghdad drone strike was also marked in recent days across Iran and by supporters in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere. Mr. Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in 2018 and launched a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran, reimposing and reinforcing crippling sanctions. The two countries have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019, especially following the killing of Soleimani. Days after the Soleimani assassination, Iran launched a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. and other coalition troops, but Mr. Trump refrained from any strong military response.