The U.S. Air Force is deploying six B-52 bombers to an island base in the Indian Ocean south of Iran as tensions between the two forces rise.
U.S. military officials have bolstered its resources in the region near the Middle East by moving the bombers to Diego Garcia, located 2,300 miles south of Iran’s southernmost tip, after Iran has threatened to retaliate to the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States, Fox News reported.
First reported by CNN, the bombers were reportedly spotted departing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to the British-controlled island on Monday.
“The Pentagon has traditionally deployed long-range bombers and other aircraft as a sign of U.S. force presence capability,” according to the CNN report.
Tensions between the two nations are rising after Iran stated it would retaliate to killing of Soleimani in an airstrike on Thursday.
President Donald Trump ordered the airstrike, along with deputy commander of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Iraqi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and PMF official Mohammed Reda.
Just a few hours later, Iran replaced Soleimani, whose formal title was head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s “elite” Quds Force, with the man who served as his deputy commander since 1997, Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani.
Soleimani was actively planning an attack on the United States, the Pentagon said in a statement.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said. “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement added. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
The United States also blamed the death of a Pentagon contractor in a rocket attack on the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim Kataib Hezbollah militia.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for “severe revenge” for the death of Soleimani.
“Martyr Soleimani is an Intl figure of Resistance & all such people will seek revenge,” Khamenei said. “His efforts & path won’t be stopped by his martyrdom, by God’s Power, rather a #SevereRevenge awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & the other martyrs’ blood last night.”
Iran has also officially back out of its agreed uranium enrichment limits as part of the 2015 nuclear deal called the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
“Iran will continue its nuclear enrichment with no limitations and based on its technical needs,” the Iranian statement declared.
Tensions between the United States and Iraq are heating up too, as demonstrators stormed the gates of Washington’s embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve, and the Iraqi Parliamant has voted to remove U.S. troops from the country.
But Trump told reporters on Sunday that forces won’t be leaving unless Iraq pays the United States back for an airbase there, or he will impose sanctions on Iraq.
“We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” Trump said.
“We have a very extraordinarily expensive airbase that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” he added.