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US B-52 bomber flies over Gulf to show strength against Iran

Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar – The Pentagon sent a B-52 bomber through the Persian Gulf region on Tuesday, the sixth such takeoff since last fall, to deter Iran.

The B-52H Stratofortress, a heavy bomber, took off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on Tuesday and was expected to fly continuously through Jordan, Saudi Arabia and down the east coast of Saudi Arabia near the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. military officer.

“Our intention is to maintain this sustainable defensive stance, to deter any aggression in the region, to promote regional security and to guarantee our allies,” the senior military official said.

The United States has been alert for the past few months and is concerned about the threat posed by Iran, especially leading to the president̵

7;s inauguration on January 20, many officials said.

U.S. officials have blamed Iran-backed militias for repeated rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq last year, such as last month, which caused minor damage to the embassy in Baghdad’s fortified green zone. Washington has condemned regular cross-border missile and unmanned strikes by Iranian-minded Hussite insurgents in Yemen against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.

The United States held an aircraft carrier in the region, maintained other military capabilities and military commanders were on high alert, officials said. This stems from the consensus of intelligence analysts who intercept reports indicating that Tehran or its proxies in the region are planning revenge for the death of Major General Qassem Soleimani, a leader of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Corps killed by a U.S. drone strike. in January 2020

Officials also fear that Tehran may try to take advantage of the government’s chaotic transition in Washington, possibly by attacking allies or striking US troops in Iraq.

No attack on US assets has come and the immediate threat from Iran has somewhat subsided, senior military officials said, but the Pentagon remains vigilant.

On Saturday, the Saudi capital, Riyadh, was attacked with armed drones or missiles for the first time in seven months. The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said it had intercepted the shells, but two acquaintances said an important royal complex had suffered minor damage.

While the Biden administration promised to reassess US relations with Saudi Arabia and end its support for Riyadh’s military efforts in Yemen, Washington quickly condemned the attack and reaffirmed its commitment to the kingdom’s defense.

The coalition blamed the attack on the Husseins, who denied responsibility, and the United States also hinted that they were guilty. A previously unidentified group called “True Promise Brigades”, which is said to be based in Iraq, issued a statement on the Telegram claiming that it had targeted Yamama Palace and other sites in Riyadh in response to alleged support from Saudi Arabia for Islamic State.

Regardless of who was behind the attack, the incident is a sign that despite several years of maximum pressure from the Trump administration against Iran, Tehran has not significantly withdrawn its support for allied militias in the Middle East.

Hutus rebels, as well as a number of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias – which the United States accuses of supporting Iran with weapons, money and training – continue to threaten and occasionally attack the interests of Washington and its allies.

The recent attack on Riyadh is also likely an attempt by Iran to test how Mr. Biden, who has signaled that he will take a more conciliatory approach to Tehran than Mr Trump, responded to threats against the United States in his early days in power. allies in the Gulf, said Philip Smith, an expert on Iran-backed militias at the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy.

On Tuesday, Riyadh residents said it was the second attack and defense response by the Patriot surface-to-air interceptor missile system in the capital’s diplomatic district, which is adjacent to Yamama Palace. Further details of the incident remain unclear, without public comment from the Saudi coalition or the Hutus more than 24 hours later.

U.S. military officials declined to comment on Tuesday’s incident.

B-52 flights have become common practice in the region. The flight was the sixth such maneuver since November and the third this month, with more planned for this spring, military officials said. Tuesday’s flight was scheduled weeks ago and was not triggered by any specific event, officials said.

The senior official said such flights were intended to deter Iran and reassure allies in the region, thus maintaining security as the Biden administration adheres to a new policy for the country, the official said.

President Joe Biden has said he plans for the United States to re-enter the Iranian nuclear deal he helped with the Obama administration in 2015. WSJ’s Gerald F. Sabe explains why it won’t be as simple as it sounds. Photo: Abedin Taherkenareh / Shutterstock (Originally published on November 16, 2020)

President Biden has expressed readiness to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, from which President Trump withdrew the United States in May 2018. In addition, Biden’s White House has not published any additional plans for Iran.

“We know that US policy towards Iran is evolving at the moment and the new administration will make some decisions in the future, and I have no specific understanding of what those decisions will be,” the senior official said. “But if we continue to deter Iranian aggression. will give politicians more room for decision while defining policy. “

Dating back to the early Cold War, the B-52 is a heavy long-range bomber used by the US military for various missions. It can fly at high subsonic speeds of up to 50,000 feet, travel 8,800 miles without refueling and carry various types of precision-controlled ammunition, according to the military.

The B-52 flew as part of a bomber task force, accompanied by F-15 and F-16 jet fighters and KC-10 and KC-135 tankers. Some of the planes were flown by Allied crews, including Jordan, officials said.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Stephen Kalin at stephen.kalin@wsj.com

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