US B-52 bombers fly over the Middle East amid tensions with Iran

US B-52 bombers fly over the Middle East amid tensions with Iran

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The US military said Monday it has launched a pair of nuclear-capable long-range B-52 bombers over the Middle East in a show of force, the latest such mission in the region, as tensions persist. high between Washington and Tehran.

The bombers took off from the RAF base in Fairford, England, and flew training flights over the eastern Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea on Sunday before leaving the region.

“Threats to the United States and our partners will not go unanswered,” Lieutenant General Alexus Grinkiewicz, the top US Air Force officer in the Middle East, said in a statement. “Missions like these…demonstrate our ability to join forces to deter and, if necessary, defeat our adversaries.”

Although the US Central Command did not mention Iran, Washington frequently sent B-52 bombers to the region as hostilities between the US and Iran simmered. The last such overpass was in June.

Iran’s regional enemy, Israel, has also joined the multinational mission. Although not acknowledged by the US, three Israeli F-16 fighters escorted US bombers “in the skies of Israel en route to the (Persian) Gulf,” the Israeli military said, describing the country’s cooperation with the US military as key to “maintaining air security in Israel and in the Middle East.”

Central Command was expanded last year to include Israel, which was seen to encourage regional cooperation against Iran under former President Donald Trump.

Trump’s decision four years ago to pull the United States out of Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers triggered a series of mounting incidents in the region.

As diplomats now argue over a possible revival of the nuclear deal, Iran’s navy captured two U.S. maritime drones in the Red Sea last week.

This capture came just days after the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard towed another naval drone before releasing it as it was being followed by a US warship. The U.S. Navy is deploying heavy-duty drones to monitor threats in critical waterways that have witnessed repeated maritime attacks.

Tensions also remain high following recent clashes between US forces and Iranian-backed militias in the region. Last month, Washington launched airstrikes in eastern Syria against areas used by IRGC-backed militias, prompting a response from Iranian-backed militants.

US and Iranian negotiators in Vienna have been trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which placed severe limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing international sanctions. Last week, the State Department described Iran’s latest negotiating position as “unconstructive.”

Meanwhile, Iran is currently enriching uranium to a purity of 60% – a level it has never reached before – a short technical step away from 90%. While Iran has long maintained its program is peaceful, non-profiling experts warn that Tehran has enough 60 percent enriched uranium to fuel at least one nuclear bomb.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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