ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday evening that it is “absolutely” the case that the United States has seen “escalatory action” from Iran, prompting the deployment of a carrier strike group and a bomber task force.
“It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians. That is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests,” Pompeo told reporters from Breitbart News and other outlets traveling with him to Finland.
“And the fact that if those actions take place if they do by some third party proxy, whether that’s a Shia militia group, the Houthis or Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranians — the Iranian leadership directly accountable for that,” he said.
Asked if he could clarify what the escalatory actions are, he responded, “No I can’t.”
“I don’t want to talk about what underlays it, but make no mistake we have good reason to want to communicate clearly about how the Iranians should understand about how we will respond to actions that they may take,” he added.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the move was in response to “new intelligence that suggests allied interests and American forces could be imperiled,” according to multiple U.S. officials. The outlet reported that the deployment has been “under discussion in recent days.”
The White House announced Sunday evening in a statement that the U.S. was sending the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the “Central Command region” to send a “clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.”
“Any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force. 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,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a statement.
Pompeo said the move was “separate” from an escalating situation between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
“The Iranians understand exactly what our view is of the threat that they’re posing to U.S. interests around the world. I can’t say anything more than that,” Pompeo said.