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January 03, 2023
US Top Middle East Commander Tests New Model of Deterring Iran
Journalist Jared Szuba
Savvy bureaucratic moves by Kurilla's predecessor, retired Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, helped ensure top brass approved his bevy of requests for B-52 bomber fly-overs and aircraft carrier deployments in a high-stakes bid to deter Iranian attacks and reassure allies during the Trump years.
But critics say those tactics — the effectiveness and sustainability of which were controversial even within the Pentagon at the time — created false expectations among leaders in the region who have come to equate the size of the US military's local footprint with Washington's dedication to its defense partnerships, a perception that Biden administration officials have striven to dispel.
"The Iranians fully understand overmatch," said Jonathan Lord, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for New American Security. "Flying strategic bombers in from Minot Air Force base to run routes along Iran's coast has only served to push Iran further toward asymmetrical solutions and to lean harder into proxies that extend deniability," Lord said. "It was a conventional solution to an unconventional threat, and proved ineffective."
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