Amid escalating tensions with Iran, the Pentagon has announced that it is deploying a warship and a Patriot air defence missile system in the Middle East to deter the threats of possible operations against US forces in the region by Tehran.
The USS Arlington, which transports amphibious vehicles and aircraft, and the Patriot air defence system will join the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a B-52 bomber task force in the Middle East region in response to "indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests, the Pentagon said Friday.
The approval to deploy additional military asset against Iran has been done at the request of US Central Command, it said, adding that the Pentagon continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies.
The Pentagon said the US did not seek conflict with Iran, but that Washington was "ready to defend US forces and interests in the region".
"The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime," it said in a statement.
"Due to operational security, we will not discuss timelines or location of forces, the Pentagon said.
USS Arlington is a San Antonio-class ship that transports US marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft with the capability to support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions.
It also provides a high-quality command and control capability and improved interoperability with our allies and partners in the region. A Patriot battery is a long-range, all-weather air defense system to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.
Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the move. "By proactively moving the USS Arlington and a Patriot system to the region to join the USS Abraham Lincoln, the United States is sending Iran a clear message: stand down or we will stand up," he said.
US President Donald Trump last year unilaterally withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal America and other nations had agreed with Iran in 2015. Under the accord, Iran had agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for sanctions relief.
White House last month said it would end exemptions from sanctions for five countries - China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey - that were still buying Iranian oil.
The US also blacklisted Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, designating it as a foreign terrorist group.
Iran on Wednesday threatened to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels if Europe, China and Russia fail to deliver sanctions relief within 60 days.
Early this week, US Central Command Commander General Kenneth McKenzie alleged that Iranian regime directly engages in far reaching terrorist activities.
We know that the Iranian regime knows what our military capabilities are and we have a healthy respect for them. And that's good. And while they have avoided direct military conflict with the United States and our partners they have demonstrated the willingness and ability to attack our people, our interests and our friends and allies in the confusing, complex zone just short of armed conflict, he said.
In his address to the Foundation of Defence and Democracies, McKenzie alleged that the Iranian regime has smuggled ballistic missiles into Yemen and assisted with their construction and deployment.
And they're employed by the Hufis against the King of Saudi Arabia as well as against the United Arab Emirates, threatening US partners as well as Americans who live and work there.