The saber rattling continues as the Pentagon has announced the new deployment of an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East in response to "Iran threats" which national security adviser John Bolton first revealed a week ago as based on intelligence confirming US troops in the region face potential attack by Iranian forces and their allies.
The USS Arlington is being sent "in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests," according to a Pentagon statement. It will join regional CENTCOM deployments in support of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, still en route to the Persian Gulf after traversing the Suez Canal, and a group of B-52 Stratofortress Bombers which landed in Qatar this week.
The Arlington is an amphibious assault ship carrying Marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft.
"The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies," the Pentagon said. "The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region," it added.
Iran, for its part, has dismissed the latest deployments and the underlying intelligence Bolton touted last Sunday as requiring a response as "fake intelligence" and part of a US “psychological warfare” campaign - further noting the carrier strike group's embarkation was pre-scheduled and merely used as a pretext for escalating threats.
At least one senior Iranian cleric also recently warned that should the US send a carrier through the key narrow oil shipping Persian Gulf choke point which is routinely patrolled by IRGC boats, the US Navy's "Billion-dollar fleet can be destroyed with one missile" according to statements carried by Iran's ISNA News Agency.
However, Trump in a surprise overture said Thursday to reporters at the White House that he is open to talks with Tehran's leadership: "What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me," he said on camera.
"We don't want them to have nuclear weapons — not much to ask," he added.
Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responded to the statement on Friday, rejecting any possibility of talks while a military threat looms.
“No talks will be held with the Americans and the Americans will not dare take military action against us,” Yadollah Javani, the Guards’ deputy head for political affairs, said according to Tasnim. “Our nation... sees America as unreliable.”