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US B-1B bomber flies over Middle East amid Iranian tensions

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US B-1B bomber flies over Middle East amid Iranian tensions

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The US Air Force said on Sunday it had flown a B-1B strategic bomber over major Middle East maritime choke points with allies including Israel amid the lingering tensions with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters.

The B-1B Lancer bomber flew over the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil traded passes. It also flew over the Red Sea, its narrow Strait of Bab el-Mandeb and the Suez Canal in Egypt.

The Strait of Hormuz has been the scene of attacks on ships blamed on Iran in recent years, while the Red Sea has seen similar assaults as part of an ongoing phantom war between Tehran and Israel. The Islamic Republic has denied being involved in the attacks, although it has promised revenge on Israel for a series of attacks targeting its nuclear program.

Fighter jets from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia flew alongside the bomber.

Iranian state media did not immediately recognize the flyby. The Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The flyby comes after a series of such flights carried out by nuclear-capable B-52 bombers from the Trump administration as a show of force to Iran. Trump in 2018 unilaterally pulled America out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which saw Tehran agree to significantly limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Since then, Iran has abandoned all limits of the agreement and has significantly reduced the ability of international inspectors to monitor their program. While Iran insists its agenda is peaceful, US intelligence agencies, Western inspectors and others claim Tehran had a structured military nuclear weapons program until the end of 2003.

President Joe Biden has said he is ready to reinstate the nuclear deal, but talks in Vienna have stalled as an uncompromising protégé of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has taken over the presidency.

Biden sending a B1-B bomber into the region allows him to send “a clear message of reassurance” to regional allies, as US Air Force Central Command put it on Twitter. But this is not a nuclear capable bomber.

The B-1B came from the 37th Bomb Squadron based at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.


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