Trump keeps carrier in Middle East, overruling his Pentagon chief

Source: Politico | January 4, 2021 | Lara Seligman

The Pentagon has in recent weeks taken action to shore up its forces in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump was behind the abrupt decision announced on Sunday night to reverse course and keep the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Middle East due to Iranian threats against top U.S. officials, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

The move was the latest in a string of reversals that befuddled observers and sent mixed signals to Iran.

The Pentagon, alarmed by increased Iranian activity ahead of the one-year anniversary of the death of Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani, has in recent weeks taken action to shore up its forces in the Middle East and signal that the U.S. will respond to any attack. So Iran watchers were surprised on Thursday when acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered the Nimitz, which had been on station in the Middle East, to return home.

Miller made the move over the objections of top commanders, a development first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by a defense official. He announced he was sending the carrier home as a “de-escalation” tactic as tensions with Tehran continued to simmer. But the ship was also scheduled to return around that time for routine maintenance anyway, and the Navy had pushed for the departure, officials said.

After public threats from Iranian leaders over the weekend, Trump abruptly ordered Miller to turn the carrier around and keep it in the Middle East, according to two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. CNN first reported that Trump gave the order.


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