US sends naval strike group as tensions rise with Iran

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Jim Malloy commander Task Force 50 speaks to the crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper on the ship’s flight deck at sea in the Arabian Gulf

According to reports a warship, USS Arlington, with amphibious vehicles and aircraft on board, will also join the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group in the Gulf.

United States Central Command (Centcom), the U.S. forces for the Middle East and Afghanistan, said in a tweet on Friday that the B-52 bombers arrived at the area of operations on May 8, without saying where they had landed.

United States officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the pieces of intelligence which caused USA concerns, indicated Iran had moved missiles on boats.

Dismissing the USA claim as nonsense, Tehran described the deployments as "psychological warfare" aimed at intimidating the country.

The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike force, which officially entered U.S. 5th Fleet and U.S. Central Command on Thursday, includes the guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 2.

Iran dismissed the deployment of the Lincoln as old news, but followed it with an announcement that it would suspend some of its commitments under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers abandoned by Washington past year.

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The threat is to US troops deployed in Iraq and Syria - primarily emanating from Iranian-controlled Shia militias - and on the seas in the Persian Gulf region, where USA officials have observed Iranian-controlled vessels transporting military hardware including missiles, according to the official.

Amid escalating tensions with Iran, the United States is sending a Patriot missile-defence system to the Middle East.

USA officials announced Sunday that they would rush an aircraft carrier strike group and bombers to the region.

The U.S. Maritime Administration issued on Friday a maritime advisory warning that Iran or its proxies could target oil infrastructure and commercial ships, including oil tankers, in and around the Persian Gulf. Patriot missile systems are defensive, surface-to-air missile launchers created to shoot down short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated sharply in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told a Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee there was "very, very credible" intelligence that Iran was preparing to attack US forces or interests in the region.

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Iranian news agency ISNA quoted Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad in the city of Isfahan as saying: "Their billion dollar fleet can be destroyed with one missile".

The heated rhetoric has capped a multiyear standoff over the rogue nation's nuclear program.

"If they attempt any move, they will. [face] dozens of missiles because at that time [government] officials won't be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]", he said.

State TV showed protesters marching after Friday prayers in Tehran and said similar marches had been held across Iran.

The administration demands that Iran stops not only its nuclear technology development, but also its ballistic missile program, support for terrorists and militias in the region, and other destabilizing activities.

Earlier this week Iran announced that it had suspended two commitments under the 2015 accord in response to the economic sanctions the U.S. had reimposed.

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