- The Middle East is becoming increasingly hostile.
- Tehran’s proxies pose a danger to US diplomats.
- The US is reducing its military presence in the Middle East.
The US military has sent out two B-52 bombers to the Middle East to deter acts of aggression by Iran and its proxies. The planes, which flew from the Barksdale AFB military base on Thursday, will help project US military power in an area that is becoming increasingly hostile.
The latest move comes amid rising fears that Iran will launch retaliatory attacks against America as retaliation for the latest string of assassinations targeting key Iranian nationals.
According to military analysts, the recent killing of Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, as well as that of Major General Qasem Soleimani earlier this year has raised the stakes for an Iranian offensive.
That said, the Iranian regime is keen to refrain from a retaliatory attack in the short term, in order to forge closer ties with the incoming Joe Biden administration. Some of its proxies have, however, been acting erroneously lately and without coordination with Tehran.
This has increased the level of danger for American citizens and diplomats in the Middle East. Last month, two Katyusha rockets hit close to the US Embassy in Baghdad, escalating tensions.
Although no casualties were reported, the incident led to the embassy announcing a temporary withdrawal of some of its personnel to reduce security risks. The decision came amid anticipation of retaliatory attacks by Iranian operatives as the anniversary of Soleimani’s death draws near.
Fewer Soldiers to Protect American Interests
There is currently an increased risk for diplomats in the region due to the scheduled reduction of US troops in the Middle East. The removal will mostly impact US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will take place by January 15, just days before Mr. Biden takes over office.
According to Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, the United States will reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq from 4,500 to 2,500. The announcement has prompted a cautionary note from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He has warned that the planned withdrawal would hurt America and its allies in the region.
“The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism. It would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975.”
Ayatollah Khamenei Called for Revenge
Two weeks prior to the B-52 bombers being sent out, and following Fakhrizadeh’s killing, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for revenge against the Americans.
According to a statement issued by General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, who is in charge of US forces in the Middle East region, the bombers are a warning signal to US adversaries. They underline the US government’s resolve to maintain security in the notoriously tumultuous zone.
“We do not seek conflict, but we must remain postured and committed to respond to any contingency or in opposition to any aggression,” he said.