US withdraws aircraft carrier from Middle East amid tensions with Iran

Washington, Dec 31 (efe-epa).- The Pentagon on Thursday said it was calling back its only navy aircraft carrier operating in the Middle East, in a move that surprised many observers because it would reduce United States’ military power in the region amid escalating tensions with Iran.

The decision comes as Washington fears that Iran may launch an attack on US targets in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East.

The announcement comes just three days ahead of the first anniversary of the US strike that assassinated the top Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimaní.

The Pentagon did not mention Iran as it announced, in a statement, the withdrawal of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier deployed in the Middle East for almost 10 months.

Defense Secretary Christopher Miller “appreciates the hard work, commitment, and flexibility of more than 5,000 sailors and marines of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group who repeatedly demonstrated operational excellence in providing air support to combat operations against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and ensuring maritime security in critical waterways,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman said.

The USS Nimitz also supported US troops deployed in Somalia, and its mission was to end earlier this month, but it remained stationed amid tensions with Iran.

The decision to return it to the US west coast comes a day after a group of Air Force B-52 bombers flew directly from the country to the Persian Gulf to dissuade Iran from launching a possible attack on American targets.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump said last week on Twitter that he had heard about Iranian attacks on Americans in Iraq.

“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,” Trump wrote last week.

“We hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq.”

The fears coincide with the first anniversary of the assassination of Soleimaní, who was killed in a targeted bombing near Baghdad.

Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile strike on a military base in neighboring Iraq that hosts US troops.

The missile attack caused concussion injuries to dozens of US soldiers, with Iranian authorities warning that it was just the beginning of exacting revenge. EFE-EPA


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