Iran-linked militia groups frequently target US and partner forces in both Iraq and Syria, most recently in the August skirmish that sparked retaliatory US air strikes.

Iranian officials believe Saudi Arabia is helping protesters against the government, who are causing unrest across the country, and that could be a motive for the threat, a first Department of Defense official said. The protests were triggered by the d*ath of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the morality police for allegedly disregarding Iran’s strict dress code for women.

“It should come as no surprise that there is some part of the Iranian apparatus that believes now is a great time to launch more att*cks in the region,” said a second Defense Department official. “This is the regime’s roadmap.”

The threat to Saudi Arabia and Iraq prompted US and Saudi Arabia troops to raise the alert level last week, both officials said. Both armed forces have shortened the response time of Patriot anti-missile batteries stationed in the region and warned bases of the threat. They can also move fighters to new locations.

“We are following the reporting of threats, we are really concerned about it,” said a second Department of Defense official.

Wall Street Journal first reported that US and Saudi Arabia have raised alert levels based on threats to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The United States is also concerned about other moves by Iran in the region, including the transfer of drones to Russia for use against Ukrainian civilians and the consent to deliver ballistic missiles, the first official said.

The announcement of the b*mber’s flight came just hours later Israeli air strikes reported hit a convoy carrying Iranian weapons along the Iraqi-Syrian border.

“This Bomber Task Force demonstrates our commitment to regional security and the joint capabilities of our military partners in the region,” General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, Chief of Central Command, said in a statement announcing the b*mber’s flight. “CENTCOM is able to put a significant portion of the combat force in the air alongside our partners very quickly. We can do the same on land and at sea to meet any challenge with confidence. ‘

During the mission, two b*mbers from the 2nd Bomber Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Los Angeles flew with planes from 13 partner countries.

Central Command later also announced that Kurilla had “meaningful discussions” with leaders of “all partner armed forces in the Middle East,” including chiefs of defense from Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others.

“The Iranians have shown that they can walk and chew gum at the same time. They can mobilize a vast internal repression apparatus to deal with protests, and they can continue to incite instability abroad, ”said a second Defense Department official.

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