The US deployed nuclear-powered submarine USS Florida in the Middle East amid increasing tensions with Iran. The nuclear submarine is capable of carrying more than 150 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, the US military said.
"It is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and is deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure regional maritime security and stability," USS Florida's Commander Timothy Hawkins said, according to Reuters.
The sub started transiting the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean Sea on Friday, the US Naval Forces Central Command, which is based in Bahrain, said in a statement.
Bloomberg News said in an analysis that it is quite rare for the US military to openly talk about the positions of its nuclear-powered submarines. However, the vessels's commander did not give further details on the mission, apart from saying that its task is to support the Fifth Fleet.
Geopolitical observers think that the US move comes in the backdrop of two developments; the increasing attacks on US bases and allies in the region by Iranian proxies and the grave reports suggesting Iran's increasing nuclear capabilities.
Worsening Middle East Scene
It is also pointed out that the deteriorating security situation in the region in the wake of the worsening Israel-Palestine conflict is another reason behind the US move. Palestinian Islamic Jihad attacked northern Israel with a flurry of rockets this week following Tel Aviv's raid of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Hamas, which is fully supported by Iran, also fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza strip, inviting a harsh response from Israel.
A few days earlier, Israeli air strikes inside Syria killed two commanders of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tehran vowed retaliation, raising the specter of more attacks by it and its proxies against Israel. Two weeks before this, outfits allied with Tehran had carried out a drone attack on a US military facility in Hasakah in northeast Syria. An Iranian-made drone was used in the attack, which killed a US contractor and wounded five soldiers.
Iran's Rising Capabilities
The US think tanks calculate that the Iranian threat has increased manifold in the last few decades. "Iran's malign behavior has increased in the last two years," Centcom commander Gen. Kurilla told the US Senate Armed Services Committee last month, according to Bloomberg. The General told the panel that Iran of 2023 is not the Iran of 1983. He explained that Iran is 'exponentially more capable' of striking anywhere in the Middle East. The Centcom commander believes that Iran now possesses the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the region.
The US now has to act with more caution in the Middle East as Saudi Arabia, a legacy ally and loyal partner, is veering away from the single-point agenda of sticking with the US. Riyadh recently made peace with arch foe Iran, which marked a stunning diplomatic reversal for Washington. More interestingly, Saudi Arabia is also getting closer with US adversaries China and Russia.