Diego Garcia was chosen to keep the B-52 strategic bombers out of the range of Iranian missiles, a US official said.
On Jan. 6, 2019 the Pentagon deployed six B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers to the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, a US official told to CNN. The B-52s will be available for operations against Iran if ordered, the official said.
The deployment does not signal that operations have been ordered, CNN said. The Pentagon has traditionally deployed long-range bombers and other aircraft as a sign of US force presence and capability.
Last year, six B-52s deployed to Qatar when tensions with Iran began rising. But this time Diego Garcia was chosen to keep the aircraft out of the range of Iranian missiles, the official said.
Tensions rose during the holidays between the two nations after the Iranian-led Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) militia launched a rocket attack on the K1 military base in Kirkuk, which resulted in the death of a US citizen and wounded four US troops.
The U.S. responded to that rocket attack by precision striking five Iranian proxy militia operation sites in Iraq and Syria. The PMU affiliates attacked the embassy in response to those airstrikes.
On Dec. 31, 2019 PMU militants assaulted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. As a result of the attack U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters from 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, conducted overflights of the embassy launching flares as a show of presence while providing additional security and deterrence against protestors.
Furthermore approximately 100 Marines with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces Crisis Response — Central Command were deployed to Baghdad by means of MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to protect the US Embassy. The following day the Pentagon dispatched about 750 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East in response to the attack on the U.S. embassy.
On Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 a US airstrike near Baghdad airport killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s IRGC-QF (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force) and the mastermind of attacks against American forces over two decades.
Iranian leaders have vowed revenge for the assassination, which the White House said was warranted because of an “imminent” attack planned by Soleimani.
Shortly after the killing, the State Department advised all U.S. citizens to depart Iraq.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force