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  • U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln is pictured while it travels through the Suez Canal in Egypt May 9, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media.

    U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln is pictured while it travels through the Suez Canal in Egypt May 9, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 May 2019

"An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities," said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards' aerospace division.

A senior commander from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards stated on Sunday that the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf used to be a serious threat but now represents a target, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.

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The IRGC commander's comments came in response to the recent buildup of U.S. forces and missiles in the Persian Gulf region. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced last week that the American Navy was sending its USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf to prevent any IRGC attacks on their forces in the region. 

The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month.

"An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities," said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards' aerospace division. "If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head."

U.S. President Donald Trump also has increased economic pressure on Iran, moving to cut off all its oil exports, to try to get Tehran to curb its nuclear and missile programs as well as end support for proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Speaking to CNBC in an interview to be broadcast on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. deployments came in response to intelligence about potential Iranian attacks and aimed both to deter them and to be able to respond if necessary.

"We've seen this reporting," Pompeo said. "It's real. It appears to be something that is current, that is things we're worried about today."

"In the event that Iran decided to come after an American interest - whether that be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or any place in the Middle East - we are prepared to respond in an appropriate way," he said, adding that "our aim is not war."

Iranian navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Sunday that American forces must exit, according to ISNA. "The presence of the Americans in the Persian Gulf region has reached its end and they must leave the region," Khanzadi said.

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