Pentagon Sends Extra B-52s to Center East to Deter Iranian Assaults on U.S. Troops

WASHINGTON — Two American B-52 bombers flew one other show-of-force mission within the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, every week after President Trump warned Iran that he would maintain it accountable “if one American is killed” in rocket assaults in Iraq that the administration and army officers blamed on Tehran.

The warplanes’ 36-hour round-trip mission from Minot Air Pressure Base in North Dakota was the third time in six weeks that Air Pressure bombers had carried out long-range flights about 60 miles off the Iranian coast, strikes that army officers stated had been meant to discourage Iran from attacking American troops within the area.

America periodically conducts such fast demonstration missions to the Center East and Asia to showcase American air energy to allies and adversaries. However tensions have been rising prematurely of the Jan. 3 anniversary of the American drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Pressure of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iraqi chief of an Iranian-backed militia — deaths that Iranian leaders repeatedly insist they haven’t but avenged.

American intelligence analysts in current days say they’ve detected Iranian air defenses, maritime forces and different safety models on larger alert. However senior Protection Division officers acknowledge they can not inform if Iran or its Shia proxies in Iraq are making ready to strike American troops or to retaliate if Mr. Trump orders a pre-emptive assault in opposition to them, an choice that aides final month talked him out of, at the least in the meanwhile.

The bomber mission on Wednesday, which included U.S. Air Pressure F-16 fighters, flew up the middle of the Persian Gulf and was routed nicely exterior Iranian air area. The American warplanes had been within the broader gulf area for about two hours earlier than returning dwelling, officers stated. The Air Pressure carried out comparable B-52 missions on Nov. 21 and Dec. 10. In all three missions, there was no instant response from Iran.

“We don’t search battle, however nobody ought to underestimate our potential to defend our forces or to behave decisively in response to any assault,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the top of the Pentagon’s Central Command, stated in assertion on Wednesday.

In a Twitter publish final week that got here after a gathering with senior officers on the White Home, Mr. Trump stated that Iran was behind rocket assaults on the American Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 20. “Some pleasant well being recommendation to Iran,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “If one American is killed, I’ll maintain Iran accountable. Assume it over.”

Mr. Trump’s publish was adopted by an announcement from Central Command, which referred to as the assaults involving 21 107-millimeter rockets the biggest in a decade in opposition to U.S. personnel in Iraq. Senior American army officers stated on Wednesday that the rocket assaults had been carried out by Iranian-backed rogue militia teams, together with Kataib Hezbollah, whose chief, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed within the Jan. 3 drone strike.

Kataib Hezbollah has denied any involvement in final week’s rocket assaults, which killed at the least one Iraqi civilian and broken the embassy compound.

Over the previous 12 months, Iranian-aligned proxies in Iraq have carried out greater than 50 rocket assaults on bases the place U.S. troops are housed, in addition to on the American Embassy in Baghdad, and launched 90 assaults on convoys carrying provides to American troops, in accordance with the Pentagon.

American commanders and diplomats say the assaults are aimed toward driving American troops out of Iraq, the place Mr. Trump has ordered the Pentagon to attract right down to 2,500 personnel by mid-January.

Tensions had been excessive approaching the anniversary of the killing of Basic Suleimani in Iraq, the place the Trump administration stated he was planning assaults on American forces.

Iran responded on the time with missile strikes in opposition to bases in Iraq the place U.S. troops had been. Nobody was killed and the instant disaster subsided, though Iran has stated it had not absolutely avenged Basic Suleimani’s dying.

Final month, a high Iranian scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was killed east of Tehran in a daytime strike extensively believed to have been carried out by Israeli operatives. American and Israeli officers say Mr. Fakhrizadeh was thought of the driving power behind what they’ve described as Iran’s secretive nuclear weapons program.

Previously three weeks, Central Command has dispatched the bombers, despatched an additional squadron of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, saved the plane provider Nimitz within the area and publicly introduced for the primary time in practically a decade {that a} Tomahawk-missile-firing submarine was working.

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