"Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment," Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in a statement. "The USS Nimitz will now remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America."
The decision came after the Pentagon said it extracted the aircraft out of the area prior the first anniversary of the killing of Iran’s top military general, Qassem Soleimani.
The purported "de-escalatory signal" came after Iranian leaders threatened retaliation against President Trump and military leaders for Soleimani’s death.
Speaking at a meeting to honor the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, said not to assume that President Trump, "who appeared as a murderer or ordered a murder, may be immune from justice being carried out."
With just over three weeks left in Trump’s presidency, conflicts between the U.S. and Iran have been increasing. Last week the U.S. piloted strategic B-52 bombers over Iran as a display of force that military officials said was meant to hint Iran against carrying out attacks upon U.S. forces or interests.
A week earlier, Trump warned Iran that it would be held accountable for initiatives targeting Americans in Iraq, pointing to an American military officer who told reporters that the U.S. had recognized signs that Iran had made preparations for possible attacks on U.S. or allied objectives in Iraq or elsewhere in the Mideast.
Trump recently cited "chatter" that Iran might strike. Days after a Dec. 20 rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups, Trump tweeted that Iran was on notice.
"Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over," Trump wrote on Dec. 23. He added, "We hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq."
Because of the possibility for intensification that could lead to a more extensive war, the U.S. has tried to prevent Iran from attacking again, having sustained a steady aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf region since the USS Abraham Lincoln was sent in May 2019 amid concerns that Iran was considering attacking U.S. interests in the region.
The U.S. also delivered further land-based attack planes and reestablished a troop presence in Saudi Arabia.