US Sends B-52 Bombers to Mideast After Reported Threats from Iran

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A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam performs a flyover during the opening ceremonies of Aero India 2019 at Air Force Station Yelahanka, India Feb. 20 (U.S. Air Force/Senior Master Sgt. Pedro Jimenez)
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam performs a flyover during the opening ceremonies of Aero India 2019 at Air Force Station Yelahanka, India Feb. 20 (U.S. Air Force/Senior Master Sgt. Pedro Jimenez)

Four B-52 Stratofortress bombers are being sent to the Mideast to support the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in moves aimed at countering threats from Iran, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.

The B-52s, from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are deploying to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a hub for U.S. air operations in the region, CBS News reported.

The U.S. has only occasionally been without a bomber presence in the Mideast since 9/11, but the last bombers that had been in the region -- B-1 Lancers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas -- returned home in March, according to the Air Force.

Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a CENTCOM spokesman, said in a statement that "the Air Force is deploying B-52s to the U.S. Central Command" area of operations, adding, "We are not going to provide a specific timeline for that deployment."

Related: CNO: Navy's Response to Iran Proves New Unpredictable Deployment Model Works

On Sunday, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that a bomber task force and the Lincoln would be deployed to the Mideast to guard against renewed but unspecified threats from Iran about mounting attacks, possibly through proxies, against U.S. troops and interests in the region.

The deployments would "send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States' interests, or on those of our allies, will be met with unrelenting force," he said in a statement. "The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces."

The Lincoln had been in the eastern Mediterranean. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Monday at the annual Sea-Air-Space exposition in Washington, D.C., that sending the carrier to the Gulf region had been planned "for some time now" as part of a routine deployment.

However, at the direction of the White House, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the new commander of CENTCOM, requested that the deployment of the Lincoln to the Gulf be accelerated, The New York Times reported.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said via Twitter on Monday that he approved the request as a "prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces."

"This is the beauty of having a dynamic force," Richardson said on Twitter. "The U.S. Navy can easily maneuver to protect national interests around the globe."

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have heightened since President Donald Trump last year withdrew the U.S. from the landmark 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the Obama administration, which was aimed at limiting Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

The deal had been worked out by the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany, the so-called "P5 + 1." Other signatories remain in the JCPOA.

Trump later imposed tougher sanctions on Iran intended to force political change in the regime.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to make a speech Wednesday outlining Iran's intent to "diminish its commitments" to the JCPOA, according to Iran's state news agency IRNA.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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