After weeks of heated rhetoric and the exchange of threats related to US oil export sanctions on Iran, and with both sides eyeing the enforcement of its rights over the vital Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the White House has just announced what will be looked on by Tehran as a major and potentially dangerous escalation.
White House national security advisor John Bolton announced Sunday night the immediate deployment of a full aircraft carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Persian Gulf region.
The official statement cites that CENTCOM is responding to multiple "troubling and escalatory" Iranian actions, and reads as follows:
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 US Central Command region to send 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. The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack.
Iran has within the past week vowed to keep exporting oil even as the White House vowed to take it down to "zero" - this after ending the waiver program which allowed up to eight nations to continue Iranian crude purchases on a conditional and limited basis.
Iran has also vowed to continue patrolling the key narrow Strait of Hormuz passageway, through which some on-third of the world's oil passes.
However, after the US formally designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization, the question remains over whether the US military will actually engage IRGC fast boats known to routinely patrol the same region over which CENCOM naval assets operate.
The White House's sending the USS Abraham Lincoln to the region, likely first near Qatar, makes the potential for a major incident leading to direct exchange of fire between the US and Iran now much more likely.