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US B-52 once again overflies Mideast in show of force to Iran

New White House administration girds for tense relationship with Tehran by flying nuclear-capable bomber over region; plane accompanied at one point by Saudi jets

Illustrative: A US B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana is refueled during a training exercise, August 21, 2017. (US Air Force/Louis Briscese)
Illustrative: A US B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana is refueled during a training exercise, August 21, 2017. (US Air Force/Louis Briscese)

WASHINGTON — An American B-52 bomber flew over the Middle East Wednesday in a show of force by President Joe Biden’s new administration as it girds for a challenging relationship with Iran, the Pentagon said.

The nuclear-capable B-52H Stratofortress flew the round-trip mission from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, accompanied at different times by US fighter jets and refueling tankers, and, at one point, by Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force F-15 fighters.

It was the third such mission this year, the first two carried out by the previous administration of Donald Trump to maintain a threat presence against Iran.

While Biden, who became president on January 20, has signaled a readiness to thaw relations with Tehran, the new mission showed that US strategic policy has not changed.

“This long-range, short-duration defensive mission was intended to demonstrate the US military’s ability to deploy airpower anywhere in the world to deter potential aggression and showcase the US commitment to regional security,” the US Central Command said in a statement.

“Centcom is committed to partner security and preserving regional stability,” it said.

Tensions have heated in the region in recent weeks as the Biden administration took control of the White House.

Biden is expected to take a softer approach to Iran than his predecessor, and has said he will rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, if Iran returns to its terms.

The Trump administration withdrew from the deal in 2018 and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.

Iran and the Trump administration exchanged a steady stream of threats before Trump’s term ended earlier this month, and Iran carried out fresh breaches of the nuclear agreement.

Iran’s aggressive moves were believed to be partially aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of negotiations with Biden.

Israeli officials have warned the US against rejoining the nuclear deal, and have also issued threats against Iran in recent weeks.

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