US flies B-52 bombers over Middle East for third time this year
Flyover comes a day after Israel’s top general warned US President Joe Biden against a return to Iran nuclear deal.
The United States has flown B-52 bombers over the Middle East, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Wednesday, the third so-called “presence patrol” so far this year.
The flyover was the first since US President Joe Biden took office on January 20, with the others taking place near the end of Donald Trump’s presidency in what was widely viewed as a show of strength against Iran.
The B-52 bombers took off from the US state of Louisiana and “successfully completed a presence patrol in the Middle East” on Wednesday, CENTCOM said in a statement.
The “defensive mission” was “intended to demonstrate the US military’s ability to deploy air power anywhere in the world to deter potential aggression and showcase the US commitment to regional security”, the statement said.
The flyover comes a day after Israel’s top general said the country’s military was revising attack plans against Iran and warned Biden against returning to the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Trump, whose administration pursued a “maximum pressure” strategy against Tehran, unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, but Biden has promised to return to the accord under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.
Israeli Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi said on Tuesday that a return to the deal “is bad and wrong from an operational and strategic point of view”.
Israel was a staunch supporter of the Trump administration’s hardline position against Tehran.
Meanwhile, the Iranian presidential chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, dismissed Kochavi’s remarks as “psychological war” and said Israel “in action, they neither have a plan nor the ability to carry it out”.
“Some officials in the Zionist regime think Washington would accept whatever they say,” he told reporters on Wednesday after a cabinet meeting. “But I believe the new US administration has its own independence – just like other countries have their own independence.”
Biden and Iran
Iran did not immediately respond to Wednesday’s B-52 flyover but rebuked the US for the last one, which came just three days before Biden took office. There have been a total of six such missions since November of last year.
Following the last flyover, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the US should spend its money “on your taxpayers’ health”, while warning “we don’t shy away from crushing aggressors”.
The Biden administration had pledged to take a more metered approach towards Iran than Trump.
During Trump’s time in office, tensions between the two countries threatened to escalate into full-scale military conflict on several occasions, particularly in the aftermath of the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.
Despite Biden’s intention to return to the deal, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US remains “a long way” from deciding whether to rejoin the agreement and would need to see what Tehran actually did to resume complying with the pact.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said “the ball is in Washington’s court” when it comes to reviving the deal.
The US B-52 flyover also came a day after Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, was attacked by missiles or drones, according to the Kingdom’s state media, the first time projectiles had been launched at the city in months.
The Biden administration, despite vowing to end support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, swiftly condemned the attack and promised to help the Kingdom “defend against attacks on its territory”.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.