Washington recently sent B-52 bombers close to the Iranian airspace, while Tehran is yet to come out of the shock of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's assassination.
In a mission to deter Iran from launching attacks on its allies in the Middle East, the US dispatched two B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf on December 10.
For regional experts, Washington's move carries a symbolic weight as the outgoing Trump administration appears to be more inclined towards escalating tensions in the Middle East to overwhelm the incoming Biden administration.
Sina Azodi, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told TRT World that Iran is a pragmatic regional power and understands that it cannot afford to have a full-blown war against the US, which is the world's strongest military power.
“I believe that while Iran’s actions have been provocative, they are not suicidal. Iran is well aware that in a military conflict, it cannot stand against the world’s strongest military power,” Azodi said.
Azodi said that while Tehran has vowed retaliation against the assassinations of both its revered military general Qasem Soleimani and the famed nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, it would also avoid forcing the US to come back with a military response.
“The US military has much more than enough to deter Iran, and Tehran is well aware of it,” he said.
Solaimani was killed by an American drone strike on January 3 2020, as the top commander was heading out of the Baghdad airport in a car. Fakhrizadeh lost his life in a high-tech assasination allegedly carried out by Israeli spy agency Mossad on November 20.
Azodi believes that Iran is likely to stick to its tried and tested policy of using proxy allies to avenge the deaths, and also to ensure maximum plausible deniability, meaning that "it would try to hide its involvement."
“Keep in mind that Iranians do not want to give the outgoing Trump administration any pretext to use military force, before the Biden administration comes in.”
Until now, Azodi added that both the US and Iran have avoided jumping on an escalation ladder that could lead to full-scale military confrontation.
The US Central Command(CENTCOM), which operates in the Middle East, said Washington decided to send the two B52 bombers close to the Iranian border to show the commitment of American army to its regional allies, especially to Israel and Saudi Arabia, and its ability to deploy combat power rapidly anywhere in the world.
Speaking to TRT World, Iranian professor and political analyst, Seyed Mohammad Marandi, said Iran will be cautious in pursuing its military policy against its regional adversary Israel, and any retaliatory strike would be carried out at a time when Israel would be expecting it the least.
“Iran will carry out strikes when Israelis are not prepared,” Marandi said.
The B-52 warplanes have the ability to carry nuclear warheads. Although the US periodically conducts such a long-range air force mission to the Middle East and Asia, these recent two B-52 flights towards Iran were unusual.
“Potential adversaries should understand that no nation on earth is more ready and capable of rapidly deploying additional combat power in the face of any aggression,” said General Kenneth F. McKenzie, CENTCOM commander.
Will the US-Iran tension change with Biden?
The Iranian parliament has decided to expand Iran's peaceful nuclear program and to decrease the International Atomic Energy inspections.
Marandi believes that any change between the US-Iran will depend on the kind of approach the Biden administration will take towards Iran.
“Iran has said that if the US fulfills the nuclear deal in full, the Iranians will do the same. But if Biden is not serious then obviously Iranians will not implement the nuclear deal,” Marandi added.
On the other hand, Azodi believes that if Biden managed to salvage the Obama-era nuclear deal, Washington may succeed in achieving a considerable amount of peace in the Middle East.
“However, I believe that if Biden administration fully comes back to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action(JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal, tensions between the two countries will substantially be reduced and the region will see more stability as Iran will see some of the pressure lifted,” Azodi said.
President-elect Joe Biden will take charge of the White House on January 20 from predecessor Donald Trump.
According to a Turkish security expert, Abdullah Agar, Trump is likely to leave Biden a minefield by escalating tensions with Iran.
“Trump could leave the whole Iran affair to the Biden administration as a bomb ready to explode,” he said
Iranian Political Analyst, Emad Abshenas, echoed a similar view, saying the Iranian government believes that "the US current administration, Israel and Saudi Arabia are seeking to start a war before the end of Trump's presidential term".
"It will be done to destroy any hope for solving the debates between Iran and the US,” Abshenas said, adding that Tehran is aware of such dynamics.
“I don't think Iran or its allies will launch any attack against US interests during this period (till Trump is gone) and probably this could be considered a good political revenge against Trump, Netanyahu and Bin Salman”.