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US Aircraft Carrier Arrives in Middle East

FILE - The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Charles Drew, Nov. 13, 2018.

The USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier strike group has arrived in the Middle East after eight months without a carrier in the region, U.S. officials confirmed to VOA.

The U.S. carrier and its supporting ships and aircraft will help in the fight against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria and the war in Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led coalition is working with Afghan partners to increase pressure on the Taliban in order to force them into a peace negotiation.

Pentagon officials say the USS Stennis will also send a signal to Iran's government, which Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recently called an "outlaw regime" that "feels free to escalate and initiate costly conflicts that serve no one's interests."

"Just being there is a show of force to Iran," one defense official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the effect of the strike group's presence in the Middle East is similar that of the U.S. military base located at al-Tanf, Syria, near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

U.S. officials say that particular base blocks a road used by Iranian forces and their proxies to enter Syria and spread Iran's influence in the war-torn country.

The USS Stennis will spend much of its time in coming weeks in the Persian Gulf.

A U.S. aircraft carrier has not been in the Middle East region since the USS Theodore Roosevelt left in March.