USS Abraham Lincoln. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The increased pressure put on Iran by the United States has put the Middle Eastern country in the headlines again. Tensions between the two countries have never been higher.

As tensions rose the US decided on May 15 to order the partial withdrawal of State Department employees from the US Embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil, Iraq. Non-emergency employees were removed from the area, increasing the pressure on the two countries.

According to the US Naval Institute (USNI), the US sent three warships back to the Persian Gulf area after initially withdrawing them. The USS Abraham Lincoln and its escort ships had been operating in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea before the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason entered the Persian Gulf.

In addition, two other warships, the USS Gonzalez and USS McFaul, which were not part of the Lincoln carrier strike group, entered the area as well. However, those two ships left the Persian Gulf on the same day as they arrived.

Apart from the Lincoln, Wasp-class amphibious assault ship the USS Kearsarge, along with the USS Arlington and USS McHenry, also entered waters near the United Arab Emirates, adding to the pressure.

The ships are components of the main strike force in the Persian Gulf. The US also said it would be sending battalions and Patriot missile systems to the Middle East region.

An estimated headcount of all the personnel comes to about 2,000, which, practically speaking, is insufficient, to say the least.

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton suggested deploying 120,000 troops to the Middle East region. Even if such a plan is drafted, the whole group will take at least one month to mobilize. While the number is close to the number of troops deployed during the conflict in Iraq, Iran is a much bigger and stronger power with backing from other big powers.

Some have suggested that the United States may have a surgical strike in mind. In all surgical strikes, the common denominator is a clearly specified objective.

Operation Opera was an Israeli air strike in 1981 with the objective of taking out the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, which was successful. However, there is no specific objective here, as Iran has stopped its nuclear-weapons program.

Anti-American sentiments are not driven by the Supreme Leader either. In short, there is no target to take out surgically.

In the end, the Americans are simply employing strong-arm tactics – which Trump is a big fan of.

It’s not the first time Trump has done this, either. Only two years ago his administration did the same thing when three aircraft carriers were stationed in waters neighboring North Korea. A number of “experts” firmly believed that the military was about to make a move, but what happened in the end? North Korea did not even flinch.

Therefore, it is highly likely that the back-and-forth between the United States and Iran is just the two countries flexing their muscles at each other.

This article was first published on and was translated by Kamaran Malik.

Song Tao is a researcher for the multimedia platform and think-tank Asia Pacific Daily. He is an experienced military commentator and writer on military topics.

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