The United States is deploying additional military resources to the Middle East in a "clear message" to Iran, the White House has said.
"In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region," national-security adviser John Bolton said in a statement on May 5.
Bolton said the military deployment to the area, which includes the Middle East, was aimed at sending "a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force."
He said the United States was "not seeking war with the Iranian regime," but that it was "fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or regular Iranian forces."
The statement did not specify why the deployment was taking place now, but it comes as Washington has ramped up pressure on the Iranian government as it seeks to end what it calls Tehran's "malign" activities in the region.
A U.S. defense official told the Associated Press that the decision followed "clear indications" that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were preparing to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Pentagon approved the deployments and that U.S. forces at sea and on land were thought to be the potential targets. The official declined to be more specific.
The administration of President Donald Trump has recently announced it had decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions, in an attempt to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero.
It has also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, marking the first time Washington has officially used that label on a foreign state institution.
The United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May 2018, and later reimposed sanctions targeting Iran's oil, shipping, and banking sectors.
Trump said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran's development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq. Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles.
The Abraham Lincoln and its strike group of ships and combat aircraft have recently been operating in the Mediterranean Sea.
Bolton's reference to the Central Command region would mean the force is headed to the Red Sea and perhaps then to the Persian Gulf, where the U.S. Navy currently has no aircraft carrier, AP reported.
His statement also suggests that Washington is deploying land-based bomber aircraft in the region.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters