Iran-linked militias frequently target US and partner forces in Iraq and Syria, most recently in a skirmish in August that prompted retaliatory US airstrikes.
Iranian officials believe Saudi Arabia is aiding anti-government protesters who are fomenting unrest across the country, and that could be the motive for the threat, the top DoD official said. The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by morality police for allegedly flouting Iran’s strict dress code for women.
“It shouldn’t surprise us that there is a part of the Iranian apparatus that thinks the time is right to launch more attacks in the region,” the second DoD official said. “It’s the playbook of this regime.”
The threat to Saudi Arabia and Iraq led the US and Saudi military to raise their alert levels last week, the two officials said. Both armies shortened the response time of Patriot missile defense batteries stationed in the area and warned bases of the threat. They can also move fighter planes to new locations.
“We’re following threat reports, we’re really concerned about that,” the second DoD official said.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the US and Saudi military raised alert levels due to threats against Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The United States is also concerned about Iran’s other initiatives in the region, including transferring drones to Russia for use against Ukrainian civilians and agreeing to supply ballistic missiles, the first official said.
The announcement of the bomber flight came just hours after Israeli airstrikes reportedly hit a convoy carrying Iranian weapons along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
“This Bomber Task Force mission demonstrates our commitment to regional security and the collective capabilities of our military partners in the region,” Central Command chief Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla said in a statement announcing the bomber’s flight. . “CENTCOM has the ability to very quickly put a significant amount of combat power in the air alongside our partners. We can do the same on land and at sea to meet any challenge decisively.
During the mission, two bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., flew with aircraft from 13 partner nations, the statement said.
Later, Central Command also announced that Kurilla had had “meaningful discussions” with the leaders of “all partner militaries in the Middle East”, including the defense chiefs of Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, from Saudi Arabia and others.
“Iranians have demonstrated that they can walk and chew gum at the same time. They can marshal a vast domestic repressive apparatus to deal with the protests and they can continue to foment instability overseas,” the second DoD official said.