In policy reversal from just a few days ago, the Navy has ordered the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) carrier strike group to remain in the Middle East to counter Iranian threats. 

“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) to halt its routine redeployment,” Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in a statement.

“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.”

These latest Iranian threats come on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the death of Iranian Quds commander MG Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad by a U.S. drone strike. 

Just two days ago, Miller had ordered the Nimitz carrier group to return home in an effort to de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The Nimitz had been on a seven-month deployment. Its deployment had been made even more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Nimitz carrier group had been operating off the coast of Somalia, along with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), in support of the repositioning of about 700 U.S. troops from Somalia to other countries in East Africa. The Makin Island ARG consists of USS Makin Island (LHD-8), amphibious transport docks USS Somerset (LPD-25), USS San Diego (LPD-22), and 2,500 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The reversal of the Nimitz carrier group’s return and the rare public acknowledgment of the arrival of the nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine USS Georgia in the area on December 21 was a clear message to Iran. USS Georgia carries Tomahawk cruise missiles as well as special operations forces.

Iran’s navy consists of mainly small fast boats that can attack using swarm attacks. The Iranian navy has been mining the Persian Gulf for some time. The narrow gulf is also covered with a slew of anti-ship missiles.

On Sunday, Iranian General Rahim Safavi threatened the United States that Iran is capable of sinking U.S. carriers. Such Iranian threats are frequent.

“My assessment is that [the U.S. is] getting passive due to [its] weakness… Our forces are strong and fully prepared to defend our interests. The Americans know that their forces in the region are very vulnerable. Iran is able to turn U.S. aircraft carriers into submarines in a few hours,” Safani said in an interview with Iran’s state television.

Nevertheless, he added that Iran probably won’t be taking any action until the Trump administration is gone: 

“American military officials are more acquainted with their weak spots than politicians. Anyway, I hope nothing would happen until the vicious administration of Trump is gone. As our Leader and commanders know, the revenge for Hajj Qassem is still on the agenda.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif said in Twitter posts last Thursday that  Israel is plotting to attack American interests in the region and blame the Iranians.

“Intelligence from Iraq indicate [sic] plot to FABRICATE pretext for war. Iran doesn’t seek war but will OPENLY & DIRECTLY defend its people, security & vital interests,” Zarif wrote. 

“New intelligence from Iraq indicate [sic] that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans — putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli,” the Iranian foreign minister added.