A US Air Force bomber, escorted by fighter jets from allies, including Israel, has flown over key waterways in the Middle East where American and Iranian naval ships faced each other.
The B-1B Lancer crossed the Gulf, Bab-al-Mandeb Strait, Suez Canal and the Gulf of Oman, the US Central Command or Centcom said in a statement on Saturday.
It also flew over the Strait of Hormuz, a bottleneck for a fifth of world oil production at the tip of the Gulf, which Iran regards as a strategic area of influence.
“The Bomber Task Force Mission … should send a clear message of reassurance,” Centcom said.
Fighter jets from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, all of them US allies against the Islamic Republic of Iran, escorted the US bomber through their respective airspaces.
“Military readiness for any emergency situation or mission – from crisis response to multilateral exercises to one-day presence patrols like this one – depends on reliable partnerships,” said Centcom commander General Frank McKenzie, head of the US armed forces in the Middle East.
Egyptian fighter jets also escorted the B-1B, a supersonic bomber that can carry the heaviest conventional payload of any U.S. military aircraft.
In January, an American B-52 bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons flew over the Middle East.
Since February, Iran and Israel have been accused of participating in what analysts call a “shadow war” in which ships connected to each nation were attacked in tit-for-tat exchanges in the waters around the Gulf became.
The regional patrol, Centcom’s fifth operation this year, comes as talks stalled to revive the 2015 deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
US President Joe Biden has made repeated offers to return to the nuclear deal, but his administration is becoming increasingly frustrated with the delays following the inauguration of a hard-line government in Iran.
Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and imposed extensive sanctions, prompting Iran to step up the controversial nuclear work in retaliation.
© 2021 AFP