The US Navy has sent a guided-missile submarine to the Middle East that can carry up to 154 Tomahawk missiles, according to a spokesperson from the 5th Fleet based in Bahrain. The move is believed to be a show of force towards Iran, following recent tensions between the two nations.
The nuclear-powered submarine, based out of Kings Bay, Georgia, passed through the Suez Canal on Friday, and is now deployed in the US 5th Fleet region to help ensure regional maritime security and stability, the spokesperson added. This area includes the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil transits, as well as the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen and the Red Sea stretching up to the Suez Canal.
The US, UK and Israel have accused Iran of targeting oil tankers and commercial ships in recent years, although these allegations have been denied by Tehran. The US Navy has also reported a series of tense encounters at sea with Iranian forces, which it says have been recklessly aggressive.
Last month, the US launched airstrikes against Iran-backed forces in Syria after a rocket attack killed a US contractor and wounded seven other Americans in that country’s northeast. Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from ships or submarines, can hit targets up to 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) away. They were famously employed during the opening hours of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, as well as in response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack in 2018.
Tensions between the US and Iran have risen significantly since then-President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 agreement with world powers that provided sanctions relief in return for Iran curbing its nuclear activities and placing them under enhanced surveillance. The Biden administration has been trying to restore the agreement, but so far, efforts have been unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, tensions have been escalating as Iran has supplied attack drones to Russian forces in Ukraine, and as Israel and Iran have continued their years-long shadow war in the Middle East. Tehran has also sought improved relations with China, which brokered an agreement last month to restore diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The deployment of the US Navy’s guided-missile submarine, while not officially confirmed by the Navy itself, underscores the current state of tension in the region. The US and Iran are currently engaged in a delicate dance, with each side trying to maintain its strategic interests while avoiding open conflict.