The United States has deployed a number of its military assets to the Middle East. It could just be part of a normal rotation, or maybe there are concerns that the planes and ships are there to address.

The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that the U.S. has sent a number F-35 Lightning stealth fighters to the United Arab Emirates. The fighters jets arrived earlier this week at al-Dhafra Air Base in the UAE.

“The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in a statement announcing the deployment. “When it comes to having a quarterback for the coalition joint force, the inter-operable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role.”

This marks the first operational deployment of the advanced aircraft by the United States in the Middle East.

(Last year, Israeli Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin said that Israel was the first nation to use the F-35 in combat situations, apparently referring to Israeli efforts to prevent Iran from establishing military bases in Syria.)

The UAE has expressed interest in purchasing the advanced jets. UAE Air Force Brig.-Gen. Rashed Al Shamsi said last year that the U.S. “could now be willing to sell” the F-35 to his nation.

There were unconfirmed reports last year that a UAE delegation visited Israel to learn more about the F-35s.

In addition to the deployment of the stealth fighters to the UAE, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is currently deployed to the Red Sea, and the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group is in the Persian Gulf.

According to a report last month in Stars and Stripes, the Stennis has been deployed with both the 5th and 7th fleets as part of the Pentagon’s Dynamic Force Employment strategy, which is meant to add an element of unpredictability to the deployment of the U.S. naval force. (The 5th fleet covers the Middle East and the 7th fleet covers the western Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

A year ago, the White House noted that Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran had threatened international shipping through Bab al Mandab, a crucial strait that connects the Red Sea with the Sea of Aden.

The United States is very concerned about the Houthis’ latest attempt to escalate the war in Yemen, this time by attacking a commercial vessel while it transited one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the Bab al-Mandab, in international waters. A significant portion of global trade moves through the Bab al-Mandab every day, including key energy and food supplies. In January, the Houthis publicly threatened to attack international commercial maritime traffic in the Red Sea, and launched this attack near the vital port of Hudaydah.

These deployments may all be related to regular rotations of forces. Or perhaps they’re meant to deter Iranian mischief in the Middle East.

[Photo: Robert Sullivan / Flickr ]


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