The Pentagon late Sunday announced it would halt plans for the USS Nimitz to return home and instead will keep the massive aircraft carrier and its crew in the Middle East.
It was an abrupt reversal for military officials, who late last week said that the more than 5,000 sailors and Marines aboard the ship would be returning to the U.S. Instead, they’ll remain in the region, though officials did not say exactly where the Nimitz will be stationed.
“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment,” acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement. “The 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.”
U.S. military and intelligence officials feared that the weekend could bring new Iranian attacks against American personnel in the Middle East. Such attacks would have coincided with the one-year anniversary of a U.S. airstrike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the longtime leader of the elite Quds Force unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
There were anti-American protests across the Middle East on Saturday and Sunday but no major reports of violence targeted toward Americans.
Iranian officials have, however, issued serious public threats toward the U.S. and some toward Mr. Trump personally. In comments last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Mr. Trump’s life would soon end.
“One of the effects of this stupid and disgraceful act,” Mr. Rouhani said of the airstrike that killed Soleimani, “was that Trumpism ended.”
“In a few days, the life of this criminal will end, and he will go to the dustbin of history,” Mr. Rouhani said.
Meanwhile, the decision on the Nimitz means that another planned homecoming for U.S. troops has been delayed. The Nimitz’s latest mission was assisting with the redeployment of about 700 troops from Somalia to other bases in east Africa. As soon as that mission was completed, the Pentagon planned to bring the carrier and its crew home.
“The sacrifices and services of the Sailors, Marines, and their families is greatly appreciated by the entire Department of Defense and were in the finest traditions of the U.S. naval service. We are glad that we can conclude 2020 by announcing these warriors are headed home,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement last week announcing the move.