DOHA, May 11, (Agencies): American B-52 Stratofortress bombers sent to the Middle East over what Washington describes as threats from Iran have arrived at a US base in Qatar, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said. The US military said on Tuesday that a number of B-52 bombers would be part of additional forces being sent to the Middle East to counter what the Trump administration says are “clear indications” of threats from Iran to US forces there.
Iran has dismissed the new US deployments, including of an aircraft carrier, as old news announced now to intimidate it through “psychological warfare”, at a time when Washington is also tightening financial sanctions. The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month. A picture taken by US Air Force personnel stationed in Al Udaid air base and posted on the CENTCOM website showed two aircraft. The caption said: “B-52 Arrival. US B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron are parked on a flight line May 8, 2019.” The media officer at Al Udaid, near Doha, did not immediately respond to a phone call and email requesting comment and details. CENTCOM is responsible for US military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Washington has tightened sanctions on Iran this month, eliminating waivers that had allowed some countries to buy its oil, with a goal of reducing Tehran’s crude exports to zero. Iran has responded by scaling back some curbs on its nuclear programme, although it remains compliant with a deal to restrict its nuclear activity which Washington abandoned a year ago.
The US will meanwhile, move a Patriot missile battery into the Middle East to counter threats from Iran, the Pentagon said Friday, reflecting ongoing concerns that Tehran may be planning to attack America forces or interests in the region. The Defense Department released a statement about the move but provided no details. An official said the decision comes after intelligence showed that the Iranians have loaded military equipment and missiles onto small boats controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The official was not authorized to discuss the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials had said earlier this week that sending a Patriot battery to the area was under discussion and was part of the initial request made by the Pentagon’s US Central Command. They said it took a few days to get final approval for the Patriot, a longrange, all-weather air defense system to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Friday Tehran would not negotiate with the United States and a senior cleric warned that a US Navy fleet could be “destroyed with one missile”, as a US aircraft carrier headed towards the Gulf.
The comments by hardliners appeared partly aimed at discouraging President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies in Tehran from taking up an offer of talks from Washington. US President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders to sit down and talk with him about giving up their nuclear programme, and said he could not rule out a military confrontation, given the heightened tensions. Iran has dismissed both moves as “psychological warfare” designed to intimidate it.
The semi-official ISNA news agency quoted hardliner Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad in the city of Isfahan as saying: “Their billion(-dollar) fleet can be de-stroyed with one missile. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi stressed the importance of Europe adopting practical approaches to cooperation with Iran in the areas of oil, gas and banking.
During his meeting with Richard Moore, the Director General for Political Affairs at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Araqchi emphasized the importance of P4+1 commitments stipulated in four statements of the JCPOA joint commission after US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal. He urged Europe not to undermine Iran’s determination for reducing its commitments gradually, according to IRNA news agency