A U.S. B-52 bomber
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The U.S. Air Force’s top general says he has not yet received direction to send additional bombers to the Middle East after what is believed to be an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein, said he has had “constant” conversations with his counterparts at U.S. Central Command, the combatant command that oversees military operations in the Middle East and Central and South Asia.
“I’ve had conversations with Gen. McKenzie and I’ve also had constant conversations with his air component commander, Gen. Guastella,” Goldfein said Tuesday when asked about the escalation of tensions in the region. “Our job is to make sure that on the timeline that is required that our forces are ready to be able to do what the combatant commander needs and that’s where we are right now,” he told a small group of reporters at the Air Force Association’s annual conference at the National Harbor in Maryland.
The U.S. accused Iran of Saturday’s strike on the world’s largest crude-processing plant, a move that triggered the largest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed concerns of a budding conflict in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Iran maintains that it was not behind the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said aboard Air Force One that he was not looking to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week. “I’m not looking to meet him. I don’t think they’re ready yet but I’d prefer not meeting him,” Trump said. Similarly, Rouhani said he would not meet with Trump.
A day after warning that the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the Saudi incident, Trump dialed down his rhetoric, saying on Monday there was “no rush” to do so and that the U.S. was coordinating with allies on the matter. On Monday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to the Kingdom.
The latest confrontation represents another brick in the crumbling edifice between Washington and Tehran after a string of attacks in the Persian Gulf earlier this year.
In June, U.S. officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the aircraft was over its territory. Hours later, Trump said Iran made a “very big mistake” by shooting down the spy drone. The downing of the drone came a week after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.