The US is deploying additional Patriot missiles in the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran, the media reported on Saturday.
“The Acting Secretary of Defence has approved the movement of USS Arlington and a Patriot battery to the US Central Command as part of the Command’s original request for forces earlier this week,” CNN quoted a Pentagon statement as saying on Friday.
USS Arlington, a warship with amphibious vehicles and aircraft on board, would join the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group in the Gulf, the BBC reported on Saturday.
The Patriot system can counter ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft. US B-52 bombers have already arrived at a base in Qatar, said Pentagon. Around 5,200 US troops are deployed in neighbouring Iraq.
The US said these moves were a response to a possible threat to its forces in the region by Iran. On Friday, a defence official reiterated that the Iranian threat “is still real and credible and we’re taking it seriously”.
Though the official and the Pentagon did not disclose where the additional US missiles would be sent, they called it a “prudent measure to protect our forces”. Pentagon in a latest statement said, Washington was “ready to defend US forces and interests in the region”, but did not seek conflict with Iran.
Officials told US media the USS Arlington had been scheduled to visit the region, but its deployment was brought forward to provide enhanced command and control capabilities.
The carrier Abraham Lincoln, deployed to the Middle East as a warning to Iran, passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Thursday and was currently sailing in the Red Sea, the US Central Command said.
According to a CNN report citing intelligence, Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf.
The US military believes cruise missiles could be launched from small Iranian boats, known as dhows. Those boats are the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval assets, not regular Iranian navy boats, officials have said.
Dismissing the US claim as nonsense, Tehran described the deployments as “psychological warfare” aimed at intimidating the country. Iran has also suggested it may resume uranium enrichment nuclear activities.
The BBC quoted a senior Iranian cleric Yousef Tabatabai-Nejad as saying the US military fleet could be “destroyed with one missile”.