Acting secretary of defense orders USS Nimitz to remain in the Middle East following Iranian threats

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, shown here in 2012, was ordered to remain on station to counter Iranian threats by Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on Jan. 4, 2020.


By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 3, 2021

The USS Nimitz will remain in the Middle East following Iranian threats against top U.S. officials, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in a statement Monday, reversing a decision four days ago to bring the ship home.

“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,” Miller said in a brief statement issued by his office.

The decision reverses Miller’s order Thursday to bring the Bremerton, Washington-based aircraft carrier home after nearly 10 months at sea.

The Nimitz was supporting U.S. troops in Somalia when Miller on New Year’s Eve announced it would transit “directly home,” according to a Defense Department statement the same day.

“The Nimitz team provided persistent air cover during the troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and conducted operations and exercises that strengthened enduring partnerships and alliances in the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command areas of responsibility,” Miller said in the statement Thursday.

The Nimitz’s return was meant to reduce tensions with Iran during President Donald Trump’s final days in office, according to the Associated Press on Thursday.

“We are glad that we can conclude 2020 by announcing these warriors are headed home,” Miller said in the statement.

Sunday marked one year since the U.S. killed Iran’s leading military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Soleimani had planned attacks on coalition bases hosting American service members in Iraq, including the Dec. 27, 2019, attack that killed and wounded American and Iraqi personnel, the Defense Department said in a statement after the drone strike.

Friday, Iranian Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi told a crowd at a Tehran University event memorializing Soleimani that those who killed the general – even President Donald Trump -- “will witness severe revenge,” according to a report in the Times of Israel.

“Do not presume that someone, as the president of America, who appeared as a murderer or ordered a murder, may be immune from justice being carried out. Never,” he said, according to the Times of Israel on Friday. “Those who had a role in this assassination and crime will not be safe on Earth.”

Miller on Monday said the aircraft carrier “will now remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, which spans from Egypt to Pakistan and includes the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.

“No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America,” Miller said, according to the statement from his office.

Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos