The United States flew strategic bombers over the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, for the second time in December, to deter Iran from striking American or Allied targets in the Middle East.

The U.S. military conducted this show of force to highlight America’s “commitment to regional security and demonstrate a unique ability to rapidly deploy overwhelming combat power on short notice,” the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced Wednesday.

A senior U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press (A.P.) that the overflight by two B-52 bombers, escorted by fighter jets, was a response to signals that Iran might be planning attacks against U.S. allied targets in Iraq or elsewhere in the region as President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration nears. 

The B-52H airplanes used Wednesday, flown round trip from an Air Force base in North Dakota, are from a family of long-range, heavy bombers, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet, CENTCOM says. Such airplanes provide the U.S. with an immediate global strike capability.

The anonymous military officer further told A.P. that U.S. intelligence has identified signs of “fairly substantive threats” from Iran, including plans for possible rocket attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq as the first anniversary of Soleimani’s death approaches. 

Iran may be contemplating or preparing for “more complex” and more extensive attacks against U.S. targets or interests in the region, he said, according to A.P.

General Qassem Soleimani was a senior Iranian military official whose death President Donald Trump ordered in January after the U.S. gathered intel that Soleimani was planning “imminent attacks” that could have killed hundreds of Americans. (RELATED: Remember When The Media Predicted Trump Would Start World War III?)

Five days after the fatal U.S. drone strike, Iran’s initial response was a ballistic missile attack on an American base in Iraq that caused brain concussion injuries in about 100 U.S. troops.

Iranian-backed Shiite armed groups added to this tension by striking the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad with rockets last week. No lives were lost. 

In response, Trump warned Iran against harming even a single American life.

Wednesday’s overflight took place a week from that escalation.

“The United States continues to deploy combat-ready capabilities into the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to deter any potential adversary, and make clear that we are ready and able to respond to any aggression directed at Americans or our interests,” said General Frank McKenzie, Commander, CENTCOM, referring to the Wednesday B-52 overflight. 

“We do not seek conflict, but no one should underestimate our ability to defend our forces or to act decisively in response to any attack,” he added.

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