Fears have been rising in Washington of a possible escalation of tensions with Tehran, as the anniversary of the US drone attack that killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani looms, with many raising concerns about possible retaliation by the Islamic Republic.
The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on Wednesday that US Air Force B-52H ‘Stratofortress’ aircrews from the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota were deployed in the Middle East, saying it was done to “underscore the US military’s commitment to regional security and demonstrate a unique ability to rapidly deploy overwhelming combat power on short notice.”
A Politico report that followed the announcement cited an unnamed US senior military officer who said the bombers were deployed as a show of force meant to deter Iran from attacks against US soldiers or military assets.
The US reportedly received “signals” that Iran might be planning such attacks “in neighboring Iraq or elsewhere in the region in coming days”. Before the CENTCOM announcement, the Politico source said that US intelligence had detected recent signs of “fairly substantive threats” from Iran that may be connected with the forthcoming anniversary of the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Qasem Soleimani. The drone attack that killed him occurred on 3 January 2020.
As the date looms, Washington and Tehran have exchanged mutual warnings. On Tuesday, Ali Rabiei, an Iranian government spokesman,…