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As the US flies more bombers to the Middle East, experts doubt Iran is the real audience


US bombers and warships have made their presence in the #Middle #East known in recent weeks, but who they’re meant to message isn’t so clear.

  • The US has mounted high-profile military displays in the #Middle #East in recent weeks amid rising tensions ahead of the anniversary of the killing of a well-known #Iranian military commander.
  • #But experts in the US are skepitcal that those displays will affect #Iranian thinking or actions.
  • #Some have questioned whether the US military activity there is meant instead for US consumption.
  • #Visit #Business #Insider’s homepage for more stories.

US bombers made another long-range flight over the #Persian #Gulf this week, in what US officials described as an effort to deter #Iran from attacking the US or its allies in the #Middle #East.

#But the nature of the gesture and dynamics in the region lead experts to question whether those actions will influence #Tehran and if it is even the intended audience.

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#On #December 30, two US #Air #Force B-52 bombers made “a deliberate appearance in the #Middle #East,” according to US #Central #Command, which oversees military operations in the region.

#That followed a flight by two B-52s on #December 10, and B-52s previously flew through the region on #November 21, at which time #Central #Command said the US hadn’t had a “long-range bomber presence” in the region since “early 2020.”

A US guided-missile submarine also sailed into the #Persian #Gulf on #December 21. The announcement of that transit, which the military rarely details, emphasized the sub’s firepower and its ability to carry special-operations forces.

US #Navy guided-missile submarine USS #Georgia, front, in the #Strait of #Hormuz with guided-missile cruiser USS #Port #Royal, #December 21, 2020.
US #Navy

The US activity reflects rising tensions ahead of the #January 3 anniversary of the US assassination of #Maj. #Gen. #Qassem #Soleimani, a highly regarded commander who led #Iranian operations abroad, particularly in #Iraq and #Syria.

The #November 21 flight came a few days after rockets, apparently fired by an #Iranian-backed militia, landed in the US #Embassy complex in #Baghdad. #On #November 27, a senior official in #Iran’s nuclear program was assassinated near #Tehran, which #Iran has blamed on #Israel. #On #December 23, the US #Embassy in #Iraq was hit by its largest rocket attack since 2010.

#Some form of retaliation for #Soleimani’s killing is expected , but US officials appear divided over the actual threat. A senior defense official told The #Washington #Post that the situation is the “most concerning that I have seen” since #Soleimani’s death. #Another senior defense official told CNN that there is “not a single piece of corroborating intel” indicating an imminent attack.

#Other experts are skeptical that military displays will influence #Iran.

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“#It’s hard to know what they are thinking, but I guess #Trump officials and military commanders hope that bomber flights will intimidate #Iran, which will restrain militias in #Iraq,” #Benjamin #Friedman, policy director at the advocacy group #Defense #Priorities, told #Insider on #Thursday.

#That “hope is probably futile,” #Friedman added. “#It’s hard to see why threats by sortie would change #Iran’s calculus, nor is it clear those firing rockets in #Iraq answer to #Tehran,” whose control of those groups “seems partial.”

#Kingston #Reif, an expert on disarmament and threat reduction at the #Arms #Control #Association, said the flights reflected an unsound military approach that also appears meant for domestic messaging.

“The flights have been demonstrably ineffective in compelling #Iran to cease support of proxy attacks, are a waste of money, and are occurring against the backdrop of an increasingly tense and potentially escalatory atmosphere,” #Reif told #Insider on #Thursday.

iran soleimani funeral
#Iranians in #Tehran mourn #Gen. #Qassem #Soleimani, head of the elite #Quds #Force, who was killed in an airstrike in #Iraq, #January 4, 2020.
#Nazanin #Tabatabaee/WANA via REUTERS

#When the #Pentagon “publicizes the mission,” the goal isn’t deterrence but “self-validation,” according to #Micah #Zenko, an expert on US military actions in recent conflicts.

#Previous US strikes have been “intentionally secret” until carried out. “#Thus, overt shows of force don’t deter, [because] they’re so flashy and out of character,” #Zenko said #Wednesday, calling them “#Aerial parades for US domestic consumption.”

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#President #Donald #Trump reportedly sought options for a military strike against #Iran in #November, after the #International #Atomic #Energy #Agency said #Iran’s uranium stockpile had grown 12 times larger than allowed under the 2015 #Iran nuclear deal, from which #Trump withdrew in 2018.

#Trump was dissuaded at the time, according to The #New #York #Times, but he continues to threaten #Iran, including after the #December 23 rocket attack in #Iraq, when he said the US would hold #Tehran responsible “if one #American is killed.”

#Trump’s affinity for high-profile military displays and concern about his portrayal in the media are well known. #Recent military activity, mounted by a #Pentagon seen as increasingly politicized, may be meant as signs of resolve for a domestic audience.

“#Some officials probably realize bomber flights are pointless but figure it’s a way to look tough for no real cost that lets you say you did something about it,” #Friedman said.

‘#No clear mission’

al Asad
US soldiers inspect the site where an #Iranian missile hit at #Ain al-Asad air base in #Anbar province, #Iraq, on #January 13, 2020.
#John #Davison/Reuters

#Trump’s hardline on #Iran comes as his administration pursues a drawdown in the region. #Acting #Secretary of #Defense #Christopher #Miller said in #November that the #Pentagon would pull thousands of troops from #Afghanistan and #Iraq by #January 15, leaving about 2,500 troops in each country. (#Congress is seeking to block some of those moves.)

#Military officials, including the head of #Central #Command, acknowledge that #China and #Russia will be the US’s focus going forward, and many officials and experts argue continued emphasis on the #Middle #East is counterproductive.

“#We currently have troops in #Iraq that are exposed to attacks from #Iranian proxy forces,” #Dan #Caldwell, senior advisor at #Concerned #Veterans for #America, told #Insider on #Thursday, citing #Kata’ib #Al #Hezbollah, whose commander was killed alongside #Soleimani in #January.

“#But the military’s train and equip program for the #Iraqi #Security #Forces actually indirectly strengthen those same [proxy] forces, since they are aligned with many elements of the #Iraqi military and have at times even come into possession of #American equipment,” #Caldwell added.

The public and many others are increasingly skeptical that US interests in #Middle #East justify its current presence there.

“#Instead of sending more military assets to the #Middle #East, we should pull our troops out of #Iraq and #Syria – where they currently have no clear mission and can be easily attacked,” #Caldwell said.





[ source link ]
https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/military-activity-in-middle-east-grows-amid-tension-with-iran-2020-12

#flies #bombers ##Middle ##East #experts #doubt ##Iran #real #audience

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