The U.S. ordered the U.S.S. Nimitz and its strike group to return to the Persian Gulf to serve in a defensive capacity as U.S. forces in the region continue to drawdown during the final weeks of the Trump administration. The action coincides with rising tensions in the region between U.S. allies and Iran after a top Iranian nuclear scientist was taken out in a highly coordinated hit this week.
“There were no specific threats that triggered the return of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich, spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said in a statement. “This action ensures we have sufficient capability available to respond to any threat and to deter any adversary from acting against our troops during the force reduction.”
“The official said the move was decided before news came of the assassination of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist. But the movement of the US forces is an increased deterrence message to Iran regardless the official noted,” CNN reported. “The movement puts increased American military firepower and thousands of personnel into the region through the end of the Trump Administration. It may be up to President-elect Joe Biden to decide when to withdraw them.”
The action comes after scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in a strike on Friday as he rode in a car through the Iranian countryside. Iran had lied to the world for years that Fakhrizadeh was just an academic or a university professor when, in reality, he was the driving force behind the nation’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. The program, code named “Project Amad,” was publicly disbanded in 2003, but work on the nuclear weapons program continued in secret.
The New York Times reported:
He stayed out of sight for years. But an Israeli operation in early 2018 that stole a warehouse full of Iranian documents about “Project Amad,” what the Iranians called the nuclear weapons effort 20 years ago, included documents about Mr. Fakhrizadeh, and at least one handwritten by him, the Israelis contended.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Netanyahu singled out Mr. Fakhrizadeh in a televised presentation, when he described the secret Israeli operation to seize the archive. Iran had lied about the purpose of its nuclear research, he charged, and he identified Mr. Fakhrizadeh as the leader of the Amad program. …
Israeli officials, later backed up by American intelligence officials who reviewed the archive, said the scientist had kept elements of the program alive even after it was ostensibly abandoned. It was now being run covertly, Mr. Netanyahu argued, by an organization within Iran’s defense ministry known as S.P.N.D. He added: “You will not be surprised to hear that S.P.N.D. is led by the same person who led Project Amad, Dr. Fakhrizadeh.”
The seizure of Iranian nuclear secrets yielded nearly 55,000 pages of documents in all, with an additional 55,000 files recovered on hundreds of CDs.