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US flies two bombers to Middle East in show of force

The US is wary of a retaliatory attack on the anniversary of Soleimani's death [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 January, 2021

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Concerned that an attack could occur on the anniversary of Soleimani’s death, the US sends two B-52 bombers to the Arabian peninsula in a show of force.
The US has sent two B-52 bombers to the Middle East on Thursday as part of the continued theatrics designed to warn Iran and dissuade any potential attacks on the one year anniversary of General Qassem Soleimani's death.

This is the fourth deployment of the heavy bombers to the Arabian peninsula and a sign that even as Donald Trump's term in office wanes, the deterrence campaign remains.

Thursday's deployment was to "demonstrate the US military's continuing commitment to regional security and deterrence to aggression", according to a statement released by the US Air Force.

"The aircrews flew a 36-hour, non-stop mission from the 5th Bomb Wing's home at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to the Arabian Gulf and back to send a clear deterrent message by displaying the ability to deploy overwhelming combat power on short notice," the statement said.

With Iran and its regional allies marking the one year anniversary since a US drone strike killed Soleimani in Baghdad, tensions between the two adversaries have been running high.

Speaking to CNN, a defence official described an increased readiness of Iranian defensive systems and the potential for attacks in Iraq.

Last week, it appeared that there would be a de-escalation of tensions when the acting US Secretary of Defence, Christopher Miller, announced that the aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz would be leaving the region.

The announcement was short lived after Trump countermanded the decision and ordered the aircraft carrier to extend its deployment in the Persian Gulf.

A war of words preceded the anniversary of Soleimani's death, with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accusing the US of creating a pretext for war, and Gen. Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani's replacement as commander of Quds Force, warning: "It's possible, even from inside your own house, there may emerge someone who will retaliate for your crime."

Read more: How the GCC reconciliation deal could reshape the region's power balance

While the day itself passed without military incident, neither side has chosen to step back, and remains resolute in their stance. 

With aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and B-52 bombers commanding the skies, Iran choose a response closer to home, with the announcement that it had enriched uranium to levels not seen since the 2015 nuclear deal, as well as the seizure of a South Korean tanker.

While tensions remain high between the two sides, furtive eyes are also watching the clock run out on the Trump administration, knowing that in less than two weeks relations could be shaken up once again.

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