In response to warnings of Iranian attacks on American forces in the region, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the USS Lincoln, accompanied by a flotilla of smaller ships, is being sent to the Middle East. Behnam Ben Taleblu and Bradley Bowman explain:
In the words of the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, Jr., America’s aircraft carriers “represent 100,000 tons of international diplomacy.” . . . The addition of these assets to the U.S. force structure in the region is a welcome development as Washington seeks to counter Iranian influence and thwart operations by Iran and its proxies in the Middle East. . . .
Iran will continue to utilize asymmetric or “gray zone” tactics, [i.e., aggressions against U.S. interests that stop short of provoking war] so long as it believes it can do so with relative impunity. However, when confronted with strength, Iran has often backed down. Indeed, under the Trump administration, naval harassment of American vessels by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is reportedly decreasing. To explain its de-escalation to a domestic audience, the regime has twisted itself into rhetorical knots.
Ultimately, Washington’s deployment of a carrier strike group offers an opportunity to strengthen its Iran policy and make the case for tough diplomacy. As America re-orders its military priorities to focus on “great power competition,” the move signals that the Persian Gulf remains an utmost national-security interest, as does checking Iranian aggression.