The US has sent its amphibious transport dock ship the USS Mesa Verde into the Arabian Gulf and deployed approximately 275 military personnel to protect Americans and its embassy in Iraq against Islamist militants.
The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, together with 550 Marines aboard, will join the US Navy’s already deployed Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush and two other vessels including guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun.
The latest move comes in the wake of advances by the armed group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIS) intention to capture control over northern Iraq.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said: "Its presence in the Gulf adds to that of other US naval ships already there – including the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush – and provides the commander-in-chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them."
The deployed personnel would help the temporary evacuation of some staff from the US Embassy in Baghdad to the US Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman.
"These US military personnel are entering Iraq with the consent of the Government of Iraq," Kirby added.
"The US Embassy in Baghdad remains open, and a substantial majority of the US Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission."
Together with MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the USS Mesa Verde vessel will be capable of carrying out a range of rapid-reaction and crisis response operations.
Image: USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19). Photo: courtesy of Wwoods.