Trump told defence secretary to sail aircraft carrier back to tense Middle East water
A US aircraft carrier was ordered to sail back to tense Gulf waters by President Donald Trump on Sunday, as it headed away from the Middle East, according to media reports this week.
The USS Nimitz was pulled out of the region by Secretary of Defence Christopher Miller in an apparent de-escalation message to Iran, according to The New York Times.
It came as Iran marked the one year anniversary of Qasem Soleimani's death, Tehran's top overseas commander who was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on 3 January 2020.
But the detente measure was not approved by the White House leading Trump to tell Miller to order the carrier to sail back to the Gulf after an earlier instruction to the crew to "transit directly home".
"Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other US government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment," Miller said in a statement on Sunday, walking back from his initial decision.
"The USS Nimitz will now remain on station in the US central command area of operations. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America."
Despite threats of revenge from Tehran around the anniversary of Soleimani's death this weekend, the event passed quietly, perhaps mindful that a new president will arrive in the White House this month with a less hostile foreign policy.
Trump's five years in office have been marked by huge tensions between the US and Iran, after the president pulled Washington out of a nuclear deal with Tehran and enacted a series of sanctions on the country.
Trump's policy of maximum pressure saw the US strengthen relations with Gulf allies and Israel, but also led to Saudi oil facilities, towns, and airports being targeted by Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as other proxies.
The Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen had led to mass hunger and huge civilian casualties, with criticism from some US Democrats about Washington's role in arming Gulf states.
With Joe Biden set to take office on 20 January, Iran might seek to reset tense relations with the US, according to one diplomat.
"I think that Iran knows in a few days the game starts again and if they do something stupid now it doesn't help their position," the source told CNN.