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USS Nimitz returning to Persian Gulf in wake of Iranian nuclear missile chief assassination

Flight operations aboard aircraft carrier USS Nimitz
US Navy file photo of flight operations aboard aircraft carrier USS Nimitz

The US Navy announced it is sending aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) back to the Persian Gulf, in a move coming a day after the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist.

The navy said it made the decision to position the carrier in the region before the assassination which took place in broad daylight in Tehran, on November 27.

A CNN report says the move is in response to the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by January next year under an order issued by US president Donald Trump.

USS Nimitz is returning to the Persian Gulf after last operating in the region in September this year. The carrier has since completed a port visit to Bahrain, and, more recently, taken part in the multi-national naval exercise Malabar.

USS Nimitz arrived in the Middle East in July after getting underway for operations on April 27. The carrier and ships from its carrier strike group have been deployed since July in the US 5th Fleet area of operation.

Killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a scientist believed to be the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, is the latest in a series of killings of Iranian researchers. Iran blames the US and Israel for the killings. Past assassinations include university professor Massoud Ali Mohammadi, nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, Majid Shahriari and Darioush Rezaeinejad, among others.

Iranian military officials have already accused Israel of killing Fakhrizadeh in an effort to try provoke a war, a Reuters report says. As noted by International Institute for Strategic Studies Americas director Mark Fitzpatrick, the assassination was not aimed at impeding Iran’s war potential, but at impeding diplomacy. It can be assumed the assassination will impede the efforts of the Joe Biden administration to reconstitute the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement that current US president Donald Trump’s withdrew from in 2018.