U.S. military on alert for potential Iranian attack in Middle East

The Pentagon announced Thursday that it flew a pair of B-52 bombers from their base in Barksdale, La., to the Middle East and back to “deter aggression” in the region. The military has also taken other steps in recent weeks, including sending the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz back to the Middle East and dispatching an additional fighter jet squadron from Europe.

The moves are designed to deter Iran from taking any aggressive action against U.S. and coalition forces in the region, said the military official, who asked not to be named in order to discuss the moves. The Pentagon is concerned that Tehran could take advantage of the presidential transition and U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the upcoming anniversary of the U.S. killing of Iranian leader Qassem Soleimani, the official said.

“All those are factors that make it prudent to have a strong defensive posture right now in the region,” the official said, stressing that the moves are “not offensive in nature.” “There is no plan here to act, there is a plan to portray a strong defensive posture that would give a potential adversary pause.”

Most recently, the “short-notice, non-stop” bomber flight this week was designed to show the military’s commitment to other countries in the region, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.