U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is intensifying pressure to "get Iran to behave like a normal nation."
Pompeo spoke to reporters Monday in Finland following the administration's decision to move an aircraft carrier group ahead of schedule to the Middle East from the Mediterranean in response to what it said were threats of a possible attack on U.S. or allied interests by Iran. The larger pressure campaign has included withdrawing from an Obama-era nuclear deal, reimposing sanctions and designating the Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.
The secretary said the measures are intended to stop Iran from a range of activities that include sponsoring terrorist organizations that launch missile attacks on Israel or building missile systems in Yemen to assist rebels in that country's civil war.
"Our objective is to get the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation," he said. "When they do that, we will welcome them back."
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan says the accelerated deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier group and some bombers to the Middle East is "prudent repositioning" of assets in response to what he said were indications of a credible threat from Iran.
Shanahan says in a tweet Monday that the U.S. will hold Tehran accountable for any attacks on U.S. forces or interests. And he is calling on Iran to "cease all provocation."
The U.S. has ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to move to the Middle East about two weeks ahead of schedule. The ships have been in the Mediterranean Sea and had planned to stop for a port visit in Croatia, but that has been canceled.
National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday night that the U.S. was deploying the ships and a bomber task force to the region, intending to send a message that "unrelenting force" will meet any attack on American forces or allies.
The U.S. is rushing an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Middle East after seeing Iranian troops and proxy forces making preparations for attacks against U.S. forces and interests in the region, a defense official told The Associated Press.
At the White House, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday night that the U.S. was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region, an area that includes the Middle East. In a statement, he said the move was in response to "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings," but did not provide more details.
The request would get the ships into the region two weeks earlier than initially planned, according to the defense official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly so spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Abraham Lincoln and its strike group of ships and combat aircraft have been operating in the Mediterranean Sea recently. Bolton's reference to the Central Command area would mean the Lincoln is headed east to the Red Sea and perhaps then to the Arabian Sea or the Persian Gulf, which would take several days.