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Pentagon Sends More B-52s to Middle East to Deter Iranian Attacks on U.S. Troops


WASHINGTON — #Two #American B-52 bombers flew another show-of-force mission in the #Persian #Gulf on #Wednesday, a week after #President #Trump warned #Iran that he would hold it accountable “if one #American is killed” in rocket attacks in #Iraq that the administration and military officials blamed on #Tehran.

The warplanes’ 36-hour round-trip mission from #Minot #Air #Force #Base in #North #Dakota was the third time in six weeks that #Air #Force bombers had conducted long-range flights about 60 miles off the #Iranian coast, moves that military officials said were intended to deter #Iran from attacking #American troops in the region.

The #United #States periodically conducts such quick demonstration missions to the #Middle #East and #Asia to showcase #American air power to allies and adversaries. #But tensions have been rising in advance of the #Jan. 3 anniversary of the #American drone strike that killed #Maj. #Gen. #Qassim #Suleimani, the commander of #Iran’s elite #Quds #Force of the #Islamic #Revolutionary #Guards #Corps, and the #Iraqi leader of an #Iranian-backed militia — deaths that #Iranian leaders repeatedly insist they have not yet avenged.

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#American intelligence analysts in recent days say they have detected #Iranian air defenses, maritime forces and other security units on higher alert. #But senior #Defense #Department officials acknowledge they cannot tell if #Iran or its #Shia proxies in #Iraq are preparing to strike #American troops or to retaliate if #Mr. #Trump orders a pre-emptive attack against them, an option that aides last month talked him out of, at least for the time being.

The bomber mission on #Wednesday, which included U.S. #Air #Force F-16 fighters, flew up the center of the #Persian #Gulf and was routed well outside #Iranian air space. The #American warplanes were in the broader gulf region for about two hours before returning home, officials said. The #Air #Force conducted similar B-52 missions on #Nov. 21 and #Dec. 10. #In all three missions, there was no immediate response from #Iran.

“We do not seek conflict, but no one should underestimate our ability to defend our forces or to act decisively in response to any attack,” #Gen. #Kenneth F. #McKenzie #Jr., the head of the #Pentagon’s #Central #Command, said in statement on #Wednesday.

#In a #Twitter post last week that came after a meeting with senior officials at the #White #House, #Mr. #Trump said that #Iran was behind rocket attacks on the #American #Embassy in #Baghdad on #Dec. 20. “Some friendly health advice to #Iran,” #Mr. #Trump tweeted. “If one #American is killed, I will hold #Iran responsible. #Think it over.”

#Mr. #Trump’s post was followed by a statement from #Central #Command, which called the attacks involving 21 107-millimeter rockets the largest in a decade against U.S. personnel in #Iraq. #Senior #American military officials said on #Wednesday that the rocket attacks were carried out by #Iranian-backed rogue militia groups, including #Kataib #Hezbollah, whose leader, #Abu #Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed in the #Jan. 3 drone strike.

#Kataib #Hezbollah has denied any involvement in last week’s rocket attacks, which killed at least one #Iraqi civilian and damaged the embassy compound.

#Over the past year, #Iranian-aligned proxies in #Iraq have conducted more than 50 rocket attacks on bases where U.S. troops are housed, as well as on the #American #Embassy in #Baghdad, and launched 90 attacks on convoys carrying supplies to #American troops, according to the #Pentagon.

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#American commanders and diplomats say the attacks are aimed at driving #American troops out of #Iraq, where #Mr. #Trump has ordered the #Pentagon to draw down to 2,500 personnel by mid-January.

#Tensions had been high approaching the anniversary of the killing of #General #Suleimani in #Iraq, where the #Trump administration said he was planning attacks on #American forces.

#Iran responded at the time with missile strikes against bases in #Iraq where U.S. troops were. #No one was killed and the immediate crisis subsided, although #Iran has said it had not fully avenged #General #Suleimani’s death.

#Last month, a top #Iranian scientist, #Mohsen #Fakhrizadeh, was killed east of #Tehran in a daytime strike widely believed to have been carried out by #Israeli operatives. #American and #Israeli officials say #Mr. #Fakhrizadeh was considered the driving force behind what they have described as #Iran’s secretive nuclear weapons program.

#In the past three weeks, #Central #Command has dispatched the bombers, sent an extra squadron of fighter planes to #Saudi #Arabia, kept the aircraft carrier #Nimitz in the region and publicly announced for the first time in nearly a decade that a #Tomahawk-missile-firing submarine was operating.





[ source link ]
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/30/us/politics/us-trump-iran.html

##Pentagon ##Sends #B52s ##Middle ##East ##Deter ##Iranian ##Attacks ##Troops

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