Amid escalating tensions with Iran, the Pentagon has announced that it is deploying a warship and a Patriot air defence missile system in the Middle East to deter the threats of possible operations against USA forces in the region by Tehran.
American B-52 Stratofortress bombers sent to the Middle East over what Washington describes as threats from Iran have arrived at a U.S. base in Qatar, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said.
The Pentagon, for its part, said the deployments were "in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S. forces and our interests".
A senior Iranian cleric said in a Friday prayers sermon that the United States' navy fleet could be "destroyed with one missile", as a USA aircraft carrier headed to the Gulf, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.
The activity comes on and around the first anniversary of Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose tough economic sanctions.
The beef-up presence comes amid reports of planned possible missile attacks by small Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf; attacks in Iraq by Iranian-trained Shiite militia and attacks against us ships by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, sources told NBC News.
"The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies", it said.
The United States is bolstering its military presence in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to counter what Washington sees as a growing threat from Iran.
A second U.S. military ship is heading to the Middle East to join an aircraft carrier deployed just days ago as tensions with Iran escalate.
However, in light of the vast network of bases that the USA has surrounding Iran from virtually all directions, it's worth asking what the US's real goal is in the present escalation.
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Patriots are air defense missile systems created to counter and destroy incoming short-range ballistic missiles, advanced aircraft and cruise missiles.
In a statement yesterday the Pentagon said the United States is not seeking conflict with Iran, but made it clear that Washington was "ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region". "However we are absolutely ready to respond to any aggression against the United States, partners in the region, or our interests".
The U.S. Maritime Administration has issued an advisory that commercial vessels, including oil tankers sailing through key Middle East waterways, could be targeted by Iran.
The BBC quoted a senior Iranian cleric Yousef Tabatabai-Nejad as saying the U.S. military fleet could be "destroyed with one missile".
"If they attempt any move, they will. [face] dozens of missiles because at that time [government] officials won't be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]", he said.
The US military believes cruise missiles could be launched from small Iranian boats, known as dhows.
Rhetoric has grown heated on both sides.
Iran suggested, too, that it may resume uranium enrichment nuclear activities.
State television showed the protesters marching after Friday prayers in Tehran and said similar marches were held across the country. Iran has threatened to go further if other signatories fail to shield it from USA economic sanctions.
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