The commander of US naval forces in the Middle East told Reuters on Thursday that intelligence information indicating the existence of threats from Iran will not prevent him from sending an aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz if necessary.
Vice-Admiral James Malloy, commander of the 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, did not specify whether he would send carrier battle group Abraham Lincoln to this strategic waterway off Iran, through which a fifth of the oil consumed in the world.
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton announced Sunday the deployment of the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and support ships, including bombers, in the Middle East to send a clear message to Tehran that any interests of Washington or its allies would be sanctioned.
The carrier group passed through the Suez Canal in the Red Sea on Thursday and is now under the command of Malloy.
“If I have to get him into the strait, I’ll do it,” Malloy said in a phone interview. “I am neither compelled nor challenged to exploit it anywhere in the Middle East.”
Iran rejected the threat allegations, calling them “false information”. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased since Trump’s announcement last May of the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 agreement on the Iranian nuclear program and the gradual reestablishment of economic sanctions against Iran.
James Malloy confirmed that US forces were operating in a high state of readiness but that the US military was not preparing for a war with Iran.
“I am not on the war footing (…) but we are absolutely ready to react to any aggression against the United States, our partners in the region or our interests,” he said.
Donald Trump on Thursday invited Iran to dialogue on its nuclear program, but did not rule out an armed confrontation, given bilateral tensions.