The United States flew bomber planes over the Persian Gulf on Wednesday for the second time during this month. This was meant as a show of force to deter Iran from attacking Americans in the Middle East.
A U.S. military officer said the flight by the B-52 bombers was in response to signals that Iran may be planning attacks against U.S. allies in Iraq or elsewhere in the region in the coming days.
During the final weeks of President Trump’s administration, Iran is debating ordering further military retaliation for the U.S. killing last Jan. 3 of top Iranian military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran’s initial response, five days after the deadly U.S. drone strike, which was a ballistic missile attack on a military base in Iraq that caused brain concussion injuries to about 100 U.S. troops.
Adding to the tension was a Dec. 20 rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups. No one was killed, but the volume of rockets fired — possibly 21, with about nine landing on the Embassy compound — was unusually large. Days later, Trump tweeted that Iran was on notice.
“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,” Trump wrote on Dec. 23. He added, ”We hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq.”
Strategic calculations on both sides are further complicated by the political transition in Washington to a Biden administration that may seek new paths to dealing with Iran. Biden has said, for example, that he hopes to return the U.S. to a 2015 agreement with world powers in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.