2020 began and ended with high-profile assassinations of Iranians, a buildup of the US military on Iran’s borders, and fears of another major war in the Middle East.
Amid increasing hostility towards Tehran, the United States is building up its military presence on Iran’s borders. In the past three weeks alone, the U.S. has flown in a squadron of fighter jets and extra B-52 bombers while deploying the U.S.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier (with its strike group) and a large submarine to the Persian Gulf. This comes on top of the 2,500 troops it sent to Saudi Arabia earlier in the year, the first build-up of forces in the country in 17 years. The nuclear powered Nimitz is home to nine squadrons of fighting aircraft and has also long been rumored to carry nuclear weapons.
The military insists that all the new measures are purely “in the name of deterrence.” However, the few journalists who have paid attention to the news appear skeptical. “That’s provocation!” wrote Rania Khalek. “You’re sending this shit thousands of miles away from your border to try to provoke Iran and then playing the victim.”
The move comes in the midst of worsening hostilities between the United States and Iran. Last week, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad (a massive citadel in the center of the city, almost as large as the Vatican) was hit by a rocket strike that the Trump administration blames on Iranian-sponsored groups. On Wednesday, Trump gave “some friendly health advice” to Iran, tweeting that “If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”
The U.S. also recently upped its already extensive sanctions on the Islamic Republic, with Trump’s Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, claiming that “Thanks to the success of our sanctions, Iran is looking to come back to the negotiating table to get relief,” even as he imposed new ones.