After months of tension, the US aircraft carrier Nimitz has returned to the United States after the Pentagon last month ordered the warship to remain in the Middle East due to Iranian threats against US interests. Three Defense Ministry officials said on Monday that Nimitz and her 5,000 crew were ordered Sunday to return to the ship’s main Bremerton port, after a mission for the carrier exceeded its usual 10-month period.
The New York Times considered The return of the aircraft carrier home is a sign of the escalation of escalating tensions with Tehran.
While it appears that these immediate tensions have eased slightly, President Joe Biden is looking forward to renewing discussions with Iran on the 2015 nuclear deal that Donald Trump withdrew from him.
For weeks, the Pentagon engaged in a muscle-flexing strategy aimed at deterring Iran and its proxies in Iraq from attacking American personnel in the Persian Gulf to avenge the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani. General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, was killed in a US drone strike in January 2020.
And the Pentagon confirmed last month that it had discovered new intelligence that Iran was planning to target Trump in the weeks before the inauguration. So Nimitz and its wing of attack aircraft were ordered to stay near the Persian Gulf in anticipation.
Biden’s aides, shortly after taking office, assessed that it was time to send Nimitz home. General Kenneth Mackenzie Jr., commander of the Army’s Central Command, said last week that US firepower in the region likely helped deter Iran and its proxies from any attacks in the final days of the Trump administration.
The three Pentagon officials said Monday. No decision has been made to send another aircraft carrier to the Middle East to replace Nimitz. But the Eisenhower aircraft carrier, now in the Atlantic and bound for the Mediterranean, and the Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific could be dispatched in the coming weeks or months.
The Air Force is also expected to continue sending bombers. The B-52 is on patrol duty, back and forth, to project force in the Persian Gulf.
Two B-52s flew over a 36-hour mission from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana last week. “This is still a tense time,” said Vice Admiral John W. Miller, a retired commander from the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, who recently visited the Persian Gulf region.
These developments come after the selection of Robert Malle, an expert in Middle East issues and a former Obama administration official, last week as Biden’s special envoy to Iran. He will be responsible for trying to persuade Tehran to rein in its nuclear program – stopping uranium enrichment beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – and agreeing to new negotiations before the United States lifts its economic sanctions imposed on Iran.
This possibility has angered important regional allies. The IDF chief, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi, warned the Biden administration last week not to return to the nuclear deal, even if he strengthened the terms of the deal. General Kochavi added that he had ordered his forces to increase preparations for a possible attack against Iran during the next year.