Seeking to stay the course until he finds a way forward, Biden’s White House may not have long as Israel seeks to take matters into its own hands.
For the first time since US President Joe Biden assumed the presidency, US Air Force B-52 bombers have carried out a ‘show of force’ mission over the Arabian Gulf, maintaining the US military’s high level of alert towards Iran.
The bomber sorties, which took place on January 26, come as Biden’s administration is still trying to figure out how to deal with Iran after months of a tense standoff with the previous Trump administration.
The ‘show of force’ mission continues on the path of similar previous missions aimed at deterring Iran that started in November 2020.
B-52 strategic bombers pack a statement, given their ability to carry nuclear payload, fly as high as 15 kilometres or as far as 14,000 kilometres without refueling.
On January 26, two B-52 bombers left an airbase in Louisiana, flying over Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, briefly passing over the Arabian Gulf near Qatar, then returned to the United States in a non-stop flight.
Previously, the Pentagon has stated that these types of missions deter possible Iranian aggression, while making a show of solidarity and support to US allies in the region.
For parts of their lengthy sortie, the B-52’s were escorted by Royal Jordanian and Royal Saudi Air Force fighter jets, in addition to US fighters from the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Nimitz.
While this marks the first ‘show of force’ under President Biden’s term, it’s the fourth in two months and the sixth since November 2020.
Fear of revenge
Ties between Iran and the US have been severely strained since Soleimani’s assassination, but already suffered after Trump’s decision in 2018 to walk away from the 2015 ‘JCPOA’ nuclear deal with Iran. Since then, US sanctions on Iran have had a significant impact on the Iranian regime.
NEW Iranian missile: meet "Hajj Qasem Soleimani balistic misssile". Solid propulsion, longer range (1400 km) and accurate (declared CEP - 5m). pic.twitter.com/AEmZxPt9yM— Tal Inbar (@inbarspace) August 20, 2020
As Biden’s administration works on a new approach to Iran, he has hinted that the United States could possibly rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran shows adherence to it.
Iran, responding, called on Biden “to choose a better path” and return to the 2015 nuclear deal, with a caveat: Iran doesn’t want to fulfil any more concessions demanded of it.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, writing in Foreign Affairs, suggested Biden “can begin by removing all sanctions imposed since Trump assumed office and seek to re-enter and abide by the 2015 nuclear deal without altering its painstakingly negotiated terms.”
Israel won’t wait
Israel on the other hand, which enjoyed the Trump hardline policy on Iran, has expressed its strong opposition to the US returning to a nuclear deal.
Willing to take matters into its own hands, Israel’s military chief warned he may carry out strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, subject to the decisions of elected leadership.
Israel already has an active strike policy against Iranian-linked groups in Syria. In November 2020, Israel assassinated top Iran nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh using a remote controlled gun.
Not to be outdone, Israel carried out a show of force against Iran earlier in the week that was criticised for violating international law, with images circulating on social media that show Israeli F-35I stealth fighter jets flying over southern Lebanon and Beirut, nominally considered Hezbollah territory.
Reports in the Israeli media touted the mission as a deliberate snub to Hezbollah and a reminder to Iran, of Israel’s air superiority.
The continuation of Trump’s B-52 strategic bomber sorties seems to be a sign that for at least the time being, the US remains committed to allowing no room for mistakes with Iran as it develops a sustainable long-term plan and agenda for the region.