B-52H Stratofortress from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota seen in the Middle East – US Air Force
The US has increased security over its military personnel in the Middle East as it braces for a potential attack ahead of the anniversary of an American drone strike that killed a senior Iranian general.
Two American B-52 bombers flew over the Persian Gulf on Wednesday in the latest effort to show off the country’s military force in the region and deter Iran.
Pentagon officials said they were braced for the possibility that Iran could order military retaliation for the US assassination of Qassim Soleimani, the country’s most powerful military commander, on January 3 last year.
It follows rising tensions between Washington and Tehran as Donald Trump enters his final days in the White House before Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Ahead of the anniversary, the US embassy in Baghdad announced that it was sending 30 armoured vehicles to help the Iraqi army secure the Green Zone.
Instead of fighting Covid in US, @realDonaldTrump & cohorts waste billions to fly B52s & send armadas to OUR region
Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to FABRICATE pretext for war.
Iran doesn’t seek war but will OPENLY & DIRECTLY defend its people, security & vital interests.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 31, 2020
In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the assassination, several rockets have been fired at Baghdad’s Green Zone, although they have not caused any casualties.
Mr Trump has warned against “additional attacks against Americans in Iraq”, saying he would “hold Iran responsible” for any casualties.
US intelligence officials believe there are indications that Iran is planning a fresh attack on American interests and allies in Iraq to coincide with the one year anniversary of the killing of Soleimani.
“The United States continues to deploy combat-ready capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility to deter any potential adversary, and make clear that we are ready and able to respond to any aggression directed at Americans or our interests,” said Marine General Frank McKenzie, chief of US Central Command.
“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.”
The comments came as the Pentagon disclosed that two American B-52 bombers completed a 30-hour mission from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to the Middle East on Wednesday.
It was the third time in six weeks that US bombers flew long-range flights about 60 miles off the Iranian coast. Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister said Thursday that Iran is not looking for a war with the US, but will defend itself if necessary.
“Instead of fighting Covid in US, Donald Trump and cohorts waste billions to fly B52s and send armadas to our region. Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to fabricate pretext for war (sic),” he said in a tweet.
“Iran doesn’t seek war but will OPENLY & DIRECTLY defend its people, security & vital interests,” he added.