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The United States military is once again increasing its arsenal in the Middle East to counter Iranian threats, announcing Friday the movement of a Patriot missile battery and the USS Arlington landing platform dock ship used in amphibious assaults.
The move comes a day after The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and four B-52 bombers arrived in the Middle East in response to concerns Iran may be planning an attack against American targets.
“It’s important that Iran understand that an attack on Americans or its interests will be met with an appropriate response,” Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan said Friday. “We’re in the Middle East to defeat terrorism, fight and build security ... but we will protect ourselves.”
The Iranian threat was both “on land and sea” and included commercial dhows that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a branch of Iran’s armed forces, loaded with “potential military hardware to include missiles,” a senior military official told reporters at the Pentagon.
The USS Arlington will be replacing the USS Fort McHenry to provide “additional command and control capability in the region,” which would “speed up the ability to respond” to any threat, the official added.
Pentagon officials would not comment on where the Patriot missile battery was being sent. The all-weather air defense system is used to counter ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft.
Not looking for a war
Despite the ramp up in military might, the Pentagon sought to downplay concerns that it was gearing up for war with Iran.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement issued Friday.
The U.S. Maritime Administration has issued an advisory that commercial vessels, including oil tankers sailing through key Middle East waterways, could be targeted by Iran.
No call from Iran
Meanwhile, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency has quoted a top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as saying Tehran will not negotiate with the United States. The statement follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s indirect invitation to Iranian leaders to give him a call.
Trump called for negotiations with Iran several times Thursday. He told reporters, “What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me.”
But Tasnim on Friday quoted General Yadollah Javani as saying “there will be no negotiations with America.” He also said the United States would not dare to take military action against Iran.
The carrier strike group completed its transit Thursday through the Suez Canal, U.S. Central Command spokesman Navy Capt. William Urban told VOA. He also said two B-52 bombers arrived in the region Thursday, while two others arrived Wednesday.
The bombers are now positioned at the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a defense official confirmed on condition of anonymity.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told VOA the swift military movement “sends a message that we can face any threat at a time and place of our choosing.”
Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.