A U.S. B-52 bomber flew across the Persian Gulf as a show of force against Iraq on Tuesday for the sixth time since November, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The long-range heavy bomber made a continuous fight from the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana across Jordan, Saudi Arabia and down the eastern Saudi coastline towards the United Arab Emirates and Qatar before returning, according to a senior military official, The WSJ reported. The flight was scheduled weeks in advance and not in response to a particular event.
“Our intent is to maintain that enduring defensive posture, to deter any aggression in the region, promote regional security and assure our allies,” the official said, according to The WSJ.
New this morning from Qatar: the Pentagon sent its sixth B-52 bomber sortie through the Persian Gulf this morning in a message of deterrence to Iran and reassurance to allies, mil officials tell us here https://t.co/ehkUqDoSdw
— Gordon Lubold (@glubold) January 27, 2021
The flights are meant to deter Iran and reassure American allies in the region while the Biden administration weighs potential policy measures, a senior official said, The WSJ reported. Biden mentioned a possibility of returning to the nuclear deal reached in 2015 after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in May 2018.
“We do know that U.S. policy is evolving with respect to Iran right now, and the new administration will make some decisions over the next while, and I don’t have any particular insight into what those decisions will be,” the senior official said, The WSJ reported, “But if we continue to deter Iranian aggression. it will give policy makers more decision space as they set down policy.”
U.S. officials accused militias supported by Iran of repeatedly attacking American facilities with rockets inside Baghdad’s Green Zone last year, according to The WSJ.
U.S. officials have spoken out against cross-border missile and drone attacks carried out by the Yemen-based Houthi rebels who support Iran targeting civilians in Saudi Arabia, The WSJ reported. The Houthi, who continuously target American interests and allies, are suspected of receiving weapons, training and money from Iran.
Riyadh, the Saudi capital, was attacked for the first time in seven months on Saturday, though the Houthis denied responsibility for the attack that damaged a royal complex, The WSJ reported. A new group called the “True Promise Brigades” based in Iraq claimed the attack on Telegram citing alleged Saudi support of ISIS.
The U.S. has maintained a military presence in the region since intelligence officials intercepted communications out of Tehran planning an attack avenging the death of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Iraq in January 2020, The WSJ reported.
Officials were concerned Tehran would use the presidential inauguration to carry out an attack on American allies or troops in Iraq, The WSJ reported. The attack did not materialize and the immediate threat posed by Iran petered out, though Pentagon officials said they were monitoring the country.
The B-52 flight was the third occurrence this month and more are planned to continue through the spring, according to The WSJ.