US-Israel submarine moves raise concerns in Iran

The above-water, fully visible Israeli deployment into the Suez Canal and then the Red Sea was a rare move that was reportedly carried out with the acquiescence of Egyptian authorities.
Tuesday 29/12/2020
Israeli sailors stand in formation on a warship as it passes a naval submarine in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Haifa, northern Israel, December 1, 2020. (REUTERS)
Israeli sailors stand in formation on a warship as it passes a naval submarine in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Haifa, northern Israel, December 1, 2020. (REUTERS)

DUBAI--Israeli and US submarine moves in the Arabian Gulf have raised concerns in Iran over the intentions behind such manoeuvres and the messages that Washington and Tel Aviv are trying to convey through their presence in the strategic but highly sensitive area.

Israeli media reported late Monday that an Israeli submarine has embarked for the Arabian Gulf, possibly in preparation for potential Iranian retaliation over the November assassination of senior Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

The above-water, fully visible Israeli deployment into the Suez Canal and then the Red Sea was a rare move that was reportedly carried out with the acquiescence of Egyptian authorities.

It is seen as a clear warning to Iran that Israel is ready for battle as hostilities continue to rise.

The deployment, first reported by Israeli television channel Kan 11, coincided with the sighting in the Arabian Gulf of the submarine USS Georgia, which is armed with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The US move, revealed after an announcement by the US Navy last week, was deemed by many Gulf experts as a new show of force directed at Iran.

In response to reports about American and Israeli submarine activities in the Arabian Gulf, Iran warned Israel not to cross its “red lines” in the Gulf in the final days of US President Donald Trump’s tenure and following a reported Israeli submarine deployment.

“Everyone knows what the Persian Gulf signifies for Iran,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told an online news conference.

“Everyone knows the policies (of Tehran) regarding security and national security… Everyone knows very well how high the risk is raised if the red lines of Iran are crossed.”

Tehran accuses its regional foe Israel of responsibility for several anti-Iranian operations, including the assassination last month of Fakhrizadeh.

The United States, for its part, has accused Iran of involvement in a rocket attack last week near its Baghdad embassy, as Tehran prepares to mark the first anniversary of the killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in January.

“We have sent messages to the US government and our friends in the region (warning) the current US regime not to embark on a new adventure in its final days at the White House,” said Khatibzadeh.

He said Iran was not seeking to increase tension and called for “rational people in Washington” to take the same line until President-elect Joe Biden replaces Trump in the White House.

Decades-old tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since 2018, when Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

The arch-enemies have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019, especially following the killing of Soleimani.

With the era of Trump about to end, Iran hopes that Biden will abandon the policies of his predecessor and open a new page with Tehran, something that a number of countries in the region and Israel refuse, pointing to the growing threats posed by Iran-backed militias and armed groups.

Last week, Trump warned that he would “hold Iran responsible” for any attack targeting Americans in Iraq, stressing that his warnings are serious.