Acting Pentagon chief cites 'credible threat' from Iran over decision to deploy military assets to region

Acting Pentagon chief cites 'credible threat' from Iran over decision to deploy military assets to region
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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE said Monday that he approved the deployment of a U.S. carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East because of "indications of a credible threat" by Iran.

In a pair of tweets, Shanahan said he approved the decision to send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a U.S. Air Force bomber task force to the area on Sunday.

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The shift in resources, he said, "represents a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces."

"We call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation," Shanahan continued. "We will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on US forces or our interests."

Shanahan's tweets echoed a Sunday night statement announcing the move in which national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump envoy says US ready to talk to North Korea but rebukes Pyongyang counterpart Why Trump can't make up his mind on China The benefits of American disinterest in world affairs MORE warned of "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings." Bolton did not elaborate.

"The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces," Bolton said.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Amazon backtracks, says email asking employees to delete TikTok was sent in error Amazon asks employees to delete TikTok from mobile devices: report MORE told reporters early Monday that the deployment was "something we’ve been working on for a little while." He added that the U.S. has seen "escalatory action from the Iranians."

Later on Monday, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a statement saying: "The department remains integrated with the rest of the government's efforts to address malign Iranian behavior. DoD retains a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis."

The Trump administration has repeatedly ratcheted up pressure on Iranian leadership, implementing sanctions that had been lifted as part of the Obama-era nuclear deal and declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization."

Sunday's White House statement came amid violence between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which has a foothold in Gaza, is seen as an Iranian proxy.

Ellen Mitchell contributed.

Updated at 4:43 p.m.