The American giant may be trying to dissuade the ayatollahs' regime from developing nuclear weapons

US warns Iran with B-52 bombers

PHOTO/US Air Force/Sergeant Major Lance Cheung - A US B-52H Stratofortress flies over Afghanistan during an air support mission

Two US B-52 bombers recently left US territory to fly over the Gulf. This move is yet another chapter in the tension between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran, owing above all to the latest political and economic sanctions imposed on the Iranian state for breaching the nuclear pact (JCPOA) sealed in 2015 together with other powers such as France, Germany, Russia, China and the United Kingdom. 

America's latest warning may be related to the clear message that the Persian country should not build nuclear weapons and should not attack US troops through related Shiite groups (it should not be forgotten that Iran is the main sponsor of the Shiite branch of Islam in the Middle East, as opposed to the Sunni branch led by Saudi Arabia, the USA's major regional partner).

The two B-52H bombers belonging to the US Air Force took off from Minot Air Base in North Dakota on 21 November and were quickly detected. 

The bombers, with call signs Warbird1 and Warbird 2, were tracked across the Atlantic, flying through Gibraltar to the eastern Mediterranean, and then passing through central Israel and northern Jerusalem, according to Aircraft Spots on Twitter. The track was lost when the aircraft crossed Jordan's airspace and then continued on to the Gulf, before the signal was detected again on the return flight over the Atlantic to western Spain. With the Gulf more than 7,000 miles from North Dakota, the non-stop flight meant that the B-52s - originally designed as intercontinental bombers in the 1950s - were in the air for at least 24 hours.

A press release from the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), which focused on the Middle East, noted that the "short-term, long-range mission" was intended to "deter aggression and reassure America's partners and allies".

"The non-stop mission demonstrates the ability of the United States Armed Forces to deploy their combat air power anywhere in the world at short notice and to integrate into CENTCOM operations to help preserve regional stability and security," the Central Command itself said.

What the bombers actually did during the mission, and what their weaponry was, is not clear: CENTCOM's announcement simply noted that the B-52s worked with the Air Force Central Command (AFCENT) air operations centres, F-15E and F-16 warplanes, and KC-10 and KC-135 tankers, as reported by the Israel News. 

This follows the escalation of tension developed during the last months. Iran has adopted a belligerent stance in response to the sanctions imposed by the United States (particularly those relating to the oil trade) with President Rohaní's warning that it would continue to trade in its crude oil, that it could blockade the Straits of Ormuz (the main crossing point for world oil trade) and that it would reduce its commitments to the JCPOA, relating to uranium enrichment and heavy water treatment. 

Following the Iranian response, there were incidents in Gulf waters involving cargo vessels and attacks on oil and airport targets in Saudi Arabia, for which Iran and allied Shiite formations in other countries, such as the Houthis involved in the Yemeni war to undermine the internationally recognised government, were held responsible. It should also be stressed that there were attacks on US troops, such as those carried out in Iraq by elements linked to the Shiite sphere. 

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determined that Iran has increased its stocks of nuclear material following the withdrawal of the Trump Administration from a multinational nuclear agreement in 2018. 

"Although B-52s can be tracked online quite frequently, the fact that Warbirds 1 and 2 flights were visible on the most popular flight-tracking websites seems to show that the mission was a clear show of force against Iran," the Aviationist website noted.