The U.S. Navy has deployed the Harry Truman Strike Group toward the Middle East, raising concern amid White House threats of possible military action against Syria.
The deployment is, according to the Navy, a regularly scheduled rotational deployment that includes 6,500 sailors, guided-missile cruisers and destroyers and an aircraft carrier.
The Harry S. Truman strike group is replacing the USS Theodore Roosevelt strike group, according to a Navy statement. The deployment will “provide crisis response capability and increase theater security cooperation,” according to the statement.
While the Navy says it is a routine deployment, its timing has raised concerns amid statements from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom that a “forceful” response is necessary against Syria following alleged chemical weapons use.
It remains unclear what the “forceful” response will be, but U.S. President Trump said on Monday that a “major decision” would be made within 48 hours. “No response is off the table,” Trump said. “We have a lot of options militarily.”
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said to the U.N. Security Council that “Russia's obstructionism will not continue to hold us hostage when we are confronted with an attack like this one … either way, the United States will respond.”
Numerous countries, including Russia, Syria, China and Bolivia have called for an international investigation to be launched into the alleged attacks, which were reported by rebel-linked groups in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Saturday.
Damascus has said that the reports are a “fabrication,” and are simply a “predesigned pretext” to justify an attack against their government.
Russian military specialists say that they have investigated the region and found no traces of chemical weapons use, and the United Nations has said that it is “not in a position at this point to independently verify the allegations,” according to Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
China, for its part, has urged restraint and careful investigation in the matter. “Parties should not make a prejudgment and jump to an arbitrary conclusion,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.