Over the weekend the US flew a B-1B strategic long-range bomber over the Middle East, and specifically over the Strait of Hormuz near Iran, in what the US Air Force called a "presence patrol" to send a message to Tehran. The Air Force revealed details and photos of the provocative fly-over on Sunday.
Importantly at various points along the route, which went from the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Yemen and then through Israel and Jordan and then over the Persian Gulf, US allied fighter jets escorted the bomber - most notably aircraft from Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Politico noted based on the US Air Force statement "Fighter jets from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia flew alongside the bomber" in different intervals and locations.
The report further recalled that "The Strait of Hormuz has been the scene of attacks on shipping blamed on Iran in recent years, while the Red Sea has seen similar assaults amid an ongoing shadow war between Tehran and Israel"; however, it remains "The Islamic Republic has denied being involved in the attacks, though it has promised to take revenge on Israel for a series of attacks targeting its nuclear program."
The flight mission was a rare one given the bomber took off from the remote Diego Garcia outpost, given the B1-B's present deployment to the island was a recent first in the past 15 years.
The US Air Force described what was essentially a circumnavigation of the entire Arabian Peninsula as follows:
The flight was a five-hour, non-stop multilateral mission with participation from air forces to include: Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.... Multiple partner nations’ fighter aircraft accompanied the B-1B Lancer at different points during the flight, which flew over the Gulf of Aden, Bab el-Mandeb Strait, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman before departing the region.
Following the Abraham Accords, which involved the Gulf countries of the UAE and Bahrain signing a historic peace treaty with Israel in 2020, there have been growing calls for Saudi Arabia to also normalize relations with Tel Aviv.
That Saturday's US bomber flight involved the participation and cooperation of both the Israeli and Saudi militaries is also somewhat unprecedented, and suggests a deepening and continuing de facto military and intelligence relationship between the two (especially since the war in Syria).
Meanwhile the US and Israel have vowed to pursue "other options" should there be no restored nuclear deal to come out of Vienna talks. This new B1-B flight is a clear message to Iran as part of the continuing pressure campaign to get Iran back to the table after talks have stalled since June.