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Washington deploys fighter jets and drones to Qatar amid Iran-led regional tensions

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar April 9, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Terrica Y. Jones/Handout via Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday that the U.S. military intends to deploy fighter jets, reconnaissance planes and armed drones to the Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar. The move is reportedly designed to circumvent restrictions on airstrikes conducted from an airbase located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

An unnamed Emirati official explained the restrictions on U.S. aerial strikes in the region.

“Restrictions have been imposed on strike missions against targets in Iraq and Yemen,” the official stated, referring to previous American-led air strikes on Iranian-backed terrorist militias in Iraq as well as the Houthis in Yemen.

“Those restrictions are coming from a place of self-protection,” the Emirati official added without elaborating.

While the Emirates seeks close ties with the U.S., the UAE and other Gulf states also hope to avoid getting involved in the ongoing regional war between Israel and various Iranian-backed terrorist proxies for fear of potential reprisals from Iran and its proxies if they demonstrate overly close ties with Washington.

In addition to increasing the operational freedom for the U.S. Air Force in the region, the U.S. military redeployment is also likely designed to deter the Iranian regime from launching further attacks on Israel.

In April, the Islamic Republic of Iran launched an unprecedented aerial attack against Israel, comprising about 300 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. Israel Defense Forces, the U.S. military and their allies reportedly eliminated 99% of the incoming hostile Iranian aerial targets. While preferring to not comment in public, the UAE and Saudi Arabia reportedly contributed to the effort by providing intelligence to thwart the Iranian attack.

The Western world is particularly concerned about the Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi terror militia, which has repeatedly attacked international shipping in the Red Sea since the Hamas Oct. 7 terror attack against Israel. The Houthi rebels say their attacks are acts of solidarity with Hamas and the civilian population in Gaza since the war began.

In January, the U.S. and its allies responded by launching aerial strikes at various Houthi targets in Yemen. At the time, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged that the United States would no longer tolerate the unprovoked Houthi attacks on civilian commercial vessels in the strategically important Red Sea region.

“These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes,” Biden stated.

Despite several American-led attacks on the Houthis, the Iranian-backed terror group remains a potent threat to the region. Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the Iranian regime keeps providing offensive military capabilities to the Houthis.

“They continue to indigenously produce a fair amount of [drones], other weapons systems, and so on, and of course, they’re also getting assistance from the Iranians in this respect,” Haines said.

Due to the considerable geographic distance between Israel and Yemen, the Houthi attacks have had a very limited impact on Israel. However, the Houthis have on several occasions launched attacks against Eilat Israel’s southernmost city on the Red Sea.

In April, Israel's naval aerial defenses intercepted and eliminated at least two enemy drones, likely fired by the Houthis or other Iranian-supported terror groups.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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