The Pentagon will reportedly station four B-52 heavy bombers in the Middle East in response to what the White House called a “credible” Iranian attack plan on Americans or US allies in the region.
Two of the warplanes will leave the Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana for Qatar on Tuesday, where the other two will join them some time in the coming weeks, unnamed Pentagon sources told CBS. They will be stationed at the US Central Command’s headquarters at the al-Udeid Air Base near Doha.
The move comes after the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group set sail for the Persian Gulf on Monday. White House National Security Advisor John Bolton announced both deployments over the weekend, claiming they are a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” related to an Iranian attack.
Washington wants “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” Bolton said.
Though Bolton gave virtually no details about the threat, reports suggest the intelligence came from the Israeli Mossad. They, too, left the matter vague.
A Pentagon official told the New York Times on Sunday that he was unaware of any attack plan, and that the threat may have emerged in the “previous 24 to 48 hours,” but the Israeli intelligence was passed to Washington weeks ago.
While such deployment decisions are often made well in advance, hawks in the Donald Trump administration are capitalizing on the so-called “attack plan,” portraying the deployment as a rapid, spontaneous response to a foreign threat.
In a mocking tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed the deployments, pointing out that the ship movements had indeed been announced weeks ago.
“If US and clients don’t feel safe, it’s because they’re despised by the people of the region – blaming Iran won’t reverse that,” Zarif said.