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Pentagon gives mixed signals

Last week, the U.S. sent an Air Force B-52 bomber to the Persian Gulf in a show of force intended as a warning to Iran against carrying out attacks on U.S. forces or interests. A day later, however, acting secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced the Pentagon has decided to send home the USS Nimitz, the only Navy aircraft carrier operating in the Middle East.

The two moves seem to contradict one another, and there has been conjecture the activity reflects a split within the Department of Defense about just how much of a threat is posed by Iran … and what to do about it as the Trump administration nears its end.

If such a theory is correct, the uncertainty is dangerous.

In December, President Donald Trump cited “chatter” that Iran could strike on or near the anniversary of the American airstrike that killed Iran’s top commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Trump warned “Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”

Given the circumstances, sending over a B-52 as a reminder made sense. Barring other information (and it is likely there IS other information), removing the USS Nimitz from the region does not seem to make sense.

Amid a complicated transition to the Biden administration this month, there is already the perception that U.S. forces and interests might be more vulnerable right now. Mixed signals from the Pentagon don’t do anything to inspire confidence. While there is good reason not to give away all the details, Pentagon officials would do well to provide an explanation that portrays a U.S. military united in its thinking about how best to keep this country and its interests safe.

Any perceived division or weakness that puts our citizens — particularly those serving in the military — in harm’s way is unacceptable.

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