The U.S. Air Force flew a B-1B strategic bomber over key maritime choke points in the Middle East alongside fighter jets from allies including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Bahrain, amid continued tension with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters.
The B-1B bomber flew over the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil traded passes. It also flew over the Red Sea, the narrow Bab Al Mandeb and the Suez Canal in Egypt.
The Strait of Hormuz has been the scene of attacks on shipping blamed on Iran in recent years, while the Red Sea has been the scene of similar attacks in an ongoing phantom war between Tehran and Israel.
Tehran has denied any involvement in the attacks, although it has promised revenge on Israel for a series of attacks on its nuclear program.
Iranian state media did not immediately recognize the overflight, and the Iranian mission to the UN in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The flyby is the first in a series of such flights by nuclear-capable B-52 bombers that began under the administration of former President Donald Trump as a show of force against Iran.
Mr. Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States in 2018 from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Tehran agreed to significantly limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Since then, Iran has abandoned all limits of the agreement and has significantly reduced the ability of international inspectors to monitor its program.
While Iran insists its agenda is peaceful, US intelligence agencies, Western inspectors and others claim Tehran had a structured military nuclear weapons program until the end of 2003.
President Joe Biden has said he is ready to reinstate the nuclear deal, but talks in Vienna stall as an outright protege of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has taken over the presidency .
Mr Biden sending a B1-B bomber to the region allows him to send “a clear message of reassurance” to regional allies, the US Air Force Central Command said in a Twitter post.
Update: November 1, 2021, 3:17 p.m.