A U.S. Navy force gathering in the Persian Gulf could be entirely destroyed with just one missile, an Iranian cleric warned late Friday.
“Their billion [-dollar] fleet can be destroyed with one missile,” Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabai Nejad was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency after Friday prayers in Isfahan, according to Reuters.
“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]” added Nejad, who is the supreme leader’s representative in Isfahan.
The threat comes after the White House announcement last Sunday it would send the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers into the Persian Gulf to counter Tehran. The Lincoln on Thursday passed through the Suez Canal on its way to its new assignment, as Breitbart News reported.
“The deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force are considered a prudent step in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests,” acting Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement.
“We emphasize the White House statement that we do not seek war with the Iranian regime, but we will defend U.S. personnel, our allies and our interests in the region.”
Iran sees the deployment differently.
A top commander in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said the United States “wouldn’t dare to launch military action against us.”
Yadollah Javani, the IRGC’s deputy head for political affairs, spoke after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday threatened a “swift and decisive” response to any attack by Iran.
And while U.S. President Donald Trump said he “would like to see [Iran] call me” for talks, Javani told the Tasnim news agency there would be no talks, adding Tehran saw Washington as “unreliable.”
An American official told the Associated Press the decision to send in more forces was based in part on intelligence indications that Iran had moved short-range ballistic missiles by boat in waters off its shores.
“We have information that you don’t want to know about,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “They were very threatening and we have to have great security for this country and many other places.”
Asked about the possibility of military conflict with Iran, the president said: “I guess you could say that always, right? I don’t want to say no, but hopefully that won’t happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that is loaded up and we don’t want to do anything.”
In the past few weeks, after the U.S. declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization, effectively isolating the organization financially as well as diplomatically, Iran has issued a number of perfunctory but ineffectual declarations that the U.S. armed forces are also terrorist organizations.