Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other allies join US bomber flyover of regional chokepoints

B1-B Lancer bomber and regional fighter jets fly over Strait of Hormuz and other key strategic locations

The US Air Force has flown a B-1B strategic bomber over key maritime chokepoints in the Middle East alongside fighter jets from allies including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Bahrain amid ongoing tension with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters.

The B-1B bomber on Saturday flew over the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf through which 20 per cent of all oil traded passes. It also flew over the Red Sea, the narrow Bab Al Mandeb and Egypt's Suez Canal.

The Strait of Hormuz has been the scene of attacks on shipping which have been blamed on Iran in recent years, while the Red Sea has seen similar assaults amid an ongoing shadow war between Tehran and Israel.

Tehran has denied involvement in the attacks, though it has promised to take revenge on Israel for a series of attacks on its nuclear programme.

Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge the flyover, and Iran's mission to the UN in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The flyover is the first in a pattern of such flights by nuclear-capable B-52 bombers that began during the administration of former president Donald Trump as a show of force to Iran.

Mr Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, in which Tehran agreed to drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

In the time since, Iran has abandoned all the limits of the deal and drastically reduced the ability of international inspectors to keep watch over its programme.

While Iran insists its programme is peaceful, US intelligence agencies, western inspectors and others say Tehran had a structured military nuclear weapons programme through the end of 2003.

President Joe Biden has said he is willing to re-enter the nuclear deal, but talks in Vienna have stalled as a hard-line protege of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, took over as president.

Mr Biden sending a B1-B bomber into the region allows him to send “a clear message of reassurance” to regional allies, the US Air Force's Central Command said in a Twitter post.

Updated: November 1st 2021, 3:17 PM
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