US officers on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, deployed at an American naval base in Bahrain along with some smaller vessels, claimed in an interview with Sky News that their mission is to deter Iran from striking US targets, but added that they were also ready to launch offensive strikes if ordered.
"A large part of deterrence is the readiness that backs that deterrence up. We are ready to defend the US and the US interests if called upon... My job is to be here, to be ready, to deter and to defend if required", Rear Admiral Michael Boyle, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12, said.
The USS Abraham Lincoln was sent to the Middle East in May due to what Washington claimed was a "number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran. Despite the highly publicised deployment, the aircraft carrier has not passed through the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway linking Mideast crude producers to crucial world markets.
"For our mission here, which is deterrence, we are in the place we need to be. The people in the know in Iran know that we are more of a deterrent here than we are in the Arabian Gulf because from this position we can reach them and they can't reach us. In a boxer's analogy we have got overreach from the spot where we are right now", Boyle added.
According to Sky News, aircraft on the carrier were supposed to strike several Iranian targets in June when Tehran brought down a US spy drone, which it claimed had violated its airspace and ignored multiple warnings to leave the area. At the time, President Donald Trump called off the retaliatory strikes just 10 minutes before it was set to be launched, explaining that the death of an estimated 150 Iranians was disproportionate to the loss of an unmanned aerial vehicle.
The drone incident was one of the many episodes contributing to the spike in US-Iran tensions: Washington has as well accused Tehran of being behind "sabotage attacks" on oil tankers off the UAE coast in mid-May and in the Gulf of Oman in early June, while Iran denied the allegations and urged the US to cease "warmongering" and "false flag" ops.
As a result, the United States has proposed to form an international maritime coaliton and invited several European countries, including Germany, France, and the UK, along with other nations, such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia, to join. While some of them have expressed unwillingness to take part in the initiative, the UK has signed up for the mission.