Iran, however, has appeared suspicious of Trump’s intentions during his last few weeks in power, given its willingness to pressure Tehran with sanctions and other measures that have further damaged the country. economy of the Islamic Republic.
“Trump will take full responsibility for any adventurism in his path,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter on December 24.
The December 20 rocket attack on the US Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iranian-backed Shia militias added to the tension. No one was killed, but the volume of rockets fired – perhaps 21, with about nine landings on the embassy compound – was unusually high. Days later, Trump tweeted that Iran was on notice.
“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If an American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think about it, ”Trump wrote on December 23. He added: “We are hearing about additional attacks against the Americans in Iraq.”
Due to the potential for escalation that could lead to a larger war, the United States has sought to deter Iran from further attacks. Strategic calculations on both sides are further complicated by the political transition in Washington towards a Biden administration that may seek new avenues of dealing with Iran. Biden said, for example, that he hoped to bring the United States back to a 2015 deal with world powers in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
In announcing Wednesday’s bomber flight, the head of the US Central Command said it was a defensive measure.
“The United States continues to deploy combat-ready capabilities in the area of responsibility of the United States Central Command to deter any potential adversaries and make it clear that we are ready and able to respond to any aggression directed against the Americans or our interests,” said the general. Frank McKenzie, the commander of the central command. “We are not looking for conflict, but no one should underestimate our ability to defend our forces or to act decisively in response to any attack.”
He did not mention Iran by name.
Ahead of the announcement, the senior US military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that US intelligence had detected recent signs of “fairly significant threats” from Iran, and this included planning for possible rocket attacks against US interests in Iraq in connection with the first anniversary of Soleimani’s murder.
The United States is in the process of reducing its troop presence in Iraq from 3,000 to about 2,500. Trump has ordered that the reduction be achieved by January 15; officials say it will likely be reached as early as next week.
The United States has also detected signs that Iran may be considering or planning “more complex” and broader attacks against US targets or interests in the Middle East, the senior US military officer said. , adding that this represented the most disturbing signs since time. immediately after Soleimani’s murder. The officer cited indications that advanced weapons have recently flowed from Iran into Iraq and that Shiite militia leaders in Iraq may have encountered officers of the Iranian Quds force, previously commanded by Soleimani.
The US officer said Iran could have an eye on economic goals, noting the September 2019 missile and drone attack on Saudi oil processing facilities. Iran has denied any involvement, but has been blamed by the United States for the attack.
In recent weeks, the US military has taken a series of measures designed to deter Iran, while publicly stressing that it is not considering and has not been ordered to take unprovoked action. against Iran.
Last week, a US Navy guided missile submarine made an unusual transit of the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. Earlier in December, a pair of B-52 bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana flew what the military calls a “presence” mission over the Gulf – a show of US force and a signal to American engagement in the region, but not an attack mission. That flight was repeated this week, with two B-52s flying non-stop from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and returning home Wednesday after flying over the west Gulf Coast.
Tensions with Iran escalated with the November murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist appointed by the West as head of the Islamic Republic’s dissolved military nuclear program. Iran has blamed Israel for the murder, but US officials fear any Iranian retaliation could strike US interests.