Iran’s top security body dismissed as “psychological warfare” a U.S. announcement that a carrier strike group and bombers are being sent to the Middle East as a message to Tehran, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday the United States was deploying the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East.
“Bolton’s statement is a clumsy use of a burnt-out happening for psychological warfare,” Tasnim quoted Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council, as saying. Khosravi said the carrier had arrived in the Mediterranean weeks ago.
U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Monday he had approved dispatching the carrier strike group and bombers due to indications of a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces.” He provided no details of the underlying intelligence.
Iran’s state-run Press news channel earlier said: “The deployment seems to be a ‘regularly scheduled’ one by the U.S. Navy, and Bolton has just tried to talk it up.”
Separately, a military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the United States was “neither willing nor capable” with respect to an attack on Iran, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.
Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehgan said Washington would have a hard time convincing world opinion and regional countries to accept an all-out war against Iran, and to mobilize resources for such a conflict.
Iranian newspapers and commentators have widely dismissed Washington’s announcement as a “bluff” and “empty rhetoric.”
Iran said last month it was prepared for a U.S. decision to end waivers granted to buyers of Iranian oil, as the elite Revolutionary Guards repeated their threat to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Tehran was barred from using it. Around 30% of the world’s seaborne oil exports get shipped through the strait.
While neither Shanahan nor Bolton elaborated on the gist of U.S. intelligence, other U.S. officials told Reuters there were “multiple, credible threats” against U.S. forces on land, including in Iraq, by Iran and proxy forces and at sea.
Last week, President Donald Trump’s administration said it would end waivers for countries buying Iranian oil in an attempt to reduce Iran’s crude exports to zero following Washington’s withdrawal from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
The administration also blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.
U.S.-Iranian tensions escalated further after Washington acted on Friday to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant. Washington’s step intensified a campaign aimed at halting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.
Iran will revive part of its halted nuclear program in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear accord but does not plan to pull out of the agreement itself, state media reported on Monday.