U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan authorized the deployment Friday of a Patriot missile battery and a Navy amphibious transport dock ship to the Middle East, citing intelligence concerning threats from Iran.

The Pentagon said the deployment was "in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S. forces and our interests".

It follows the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the region earlier this week.

Washington’s move is the latest in a series of actions designed to exert pressure on Iran. While it previously used economic pressure, the U.S. is now militarily threatening Tehran with new deployments to the Central Command region.

The U.S. administration re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran, Washington and five other countries.

The administration has also ended sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil.

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region," the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Patriot missile system is a long-range missile defense system aimed at countering tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft, while the USS Arlington is a navy ship that transports marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and aircraft that have the capabilities to support an amphibious assault.