US bombers are flying through the Persian Gulf to keep Iran in check as the new Biden administration figures out its next move

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Ryan Pickrell
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A B-52H Stratofortress takes off from a flighline on Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Nov. 21, 2019
A B-52H takes off from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, November 21, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jesse Jenny

The US keeps sending bombers through the Persian Gulf to keep Iran in check as the new Biden administration figures out how it wants to approach Tehran.

On Tuesday, a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress long-range, heavy bomber assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing flew from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to the Middle East. The aircraft flew through the Persian Gulf before it returned to the US. It's a 36-hour round trip.

The purpose was "to demonstrate the US military's ability to deploy airpower anywhere in the world to deter potential aggression and showcase the US commitment to regional security," US Central Command said in an official statement.

The latest B-52 bomber flight marks the sixth such deterrence flight through the Persian Gulf since November. It is, however, the first since President Joe Biden took office.

"We do know that US policy is evolving with respect to Iran right now and the new administration will make some decisions here over the next while,"a US official told Defense One. "I do know if we can continue to deter Iranian aggression ... it'll give policy makers more decision space as they set down policy."

"Other concerns included, would they try to do something to get some revenge on the Trump administration as they left office?" the official said. "We were also thinking ahead and going, 'Okay, would they potentially try to test or pressure the US military in the early days of the new administration?'"

The Biden administration, which has been up and running for only a week, has pledged to work to engage Iran and address its nuclear aspirations, ballistic-missile program, and malign and destabilizing activities in the region.

During the Trump administration, relations between Washington and Tehran were defined by a significant escalation in tensions. Early last year, the two countries were on the brink of war after the US assassinated a top Iranian general, pushing Iran to retaliate by launching a missile strike against US forces.

The situation de-escalated quickly but tensions persisted.

Past bomber flights through the region came as the US was on guard against possible Iranian aggression. There were concerns that an Iran still bitter about the death of its slain general might act out while the US was distracted with a chaotic transition at home.

A senior military official told NBC News in early December that the risk of a miscalculation is "higher than normal right now."

"It doesn't mean that they're going to do something," the senior military official explained. "But, you know, we want to ensure that if they are contemplating some sort of an aggressive act, that they would they would think twice about it before they did it."

In addition to the US Air Force B-52 bombers, the USS Georgia, a US Navy guided-missile submarine loaded with Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, was overtly deployed to the Persian Gulf with two cruisers in December.

The military believes that its activities in and around the Gulf have deterred Iran.

"Our assessment right now is Iran is probably not going to do anything to provoke the United States right now," an official told Defense One. "They seem to be biding their time, waiting to see what the new administration's policy is toward them."

Read the original article on Business Insider