US urging talks while 'holding gun' at Iran: Iranian military official

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The US flag is raised during at the US embassy in the Green Zone Jan. 5 2009 in Baghdad Iraq

Getty Images The US flag is raised during at the US embassy in the Green Zone Jan. 5 2009 in Baghdad Iraq

A US official said Thursday that Iranian missiles loaded on small boats in the Persian Gulf were among the "threats" that have triggered a beefed-up military deployment in the region.

According to the unnamed official, the photos have suggested a threat to ships belonging to the United States and its regional allies and was one of several factors that led Washington's hastened deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group to the Middle East.

"The missiles on civilian boats are a concern", said the official, who asked not to be named.

A third US official described the missiles as cruise missiles that could be used to target vessels sailing off the key waters off of Iran or at land targets.

A handout photo made available by the US Navy showing a US F/A-18E Super Hornet from the "Sidewinders" of Strike Fighter Squadron 86 launced from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Red Sea on May 10, 2019.

"He is not comfortable with all this "regime change" talk", which to his ears echoes the discussion of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the 2003 USA invasion, said the official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

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As military officials struggled to show that the threat from Iran was growing, intelligence officials declassified a photograph of one of the small boats, called dhows, carrying what was described as a functional Iranian missile. A spokesperson with U.S. Central Command told the network they had seen "indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack United States forces in the region".

CNN has also reported that Iran was caught loading ballistic missiles on boats last week.

The fully-assembled missiles were loaded on the boats by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which the USA has designated a "foreign terrorist organization", the newspaper reported. Nine U.S. national security and congressional officials discussed the intelligence and the closed-door talks about it on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about them publicly. It was unclear if the strike group would sail into the Persian Gulf.

European officials and some members of Congress claim the administration is overreacting. Still, the president is willing to respond forcefully if there are American deaths or a dramatic escalation, the official said.

On Wednesday, the State Department ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel from the USA embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.

"There's been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria", Ghika told reporters Wednesday.

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