Israeli media is widely reporting early this week than an Israeli submarine in an unprecedented move has openly traversed the Suez Canal en route to the Persian Gulf as a show of force “message” to Iran.
On Tuesday The Jerusalem Post detailed that “An IDF Navy submarine crossed the Suez Canal last week as a direct message to Iran, Kan News reported Monday evening.” The report said further, “Arab intelligence officials reportedly confirmed to Kan News that the Israeli submarine crossed the canal toward Iran visibly above water, in an act meant as a message to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.”
Israel will not allow the threats of Iran to intimidate our country. This IDF Naval submarine crossing the Suez Canal with Egyptian clearance sends a clear and direct message to the Ayatollah and Iran. We will beat you back.https://t.co/crTbmcxvOF
— Benjamin Anthony (@BenAnthony1948) December 21, 2020
Egyptian authorities gave approval for the provocative Suez crossing, and the submarine also later passed through the Red Sea without incident.
While the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it never comments on such military operational maneuvers, despite the traversing being done essentially out in the open, the submarine appears headed toward the Persian Gulf, which would constitute a huge threat and significant escalation from Tehran’s perspective.
“According to Arab intelligence that confirmed the reports, the submarine passed the Red Sea and was making its way toward the Persian Gulf, in what they believe was meant as a direct threat to Iran,” The Jerusalem Post report continued.
הצוללת הישראלית בדרך לאיראן – חשיפת כאן חדשות | גורמי מודיעין ערביים: צוללת של חיל הים חצתה את תעלת סואץ באופן גלוי ובאישור מצרי, לכיוון המפרץ הפרסי. הגורמים העריכו שישראל ניסתה להעביר מסר לטהראן. מצה”ל נמסר שהם לא מתייחסים לפרסומים מסוג זה @kaisos1987 #חדשותהערב pic.twitter.com/T67OG9QrMw
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) December 21, 2020
Both Israel and the United States seem to be coordinating a message of deterrence to the Islamic Republic, given also on Monday the US Navy announced publicly that its nuclear submarine USS Georgia is currently transiting the Strait of Hormuz, the vital Gulf narrow waterway where Iran’s IRGC frequently patrols
Israeli submarine route as presented in the initial Kan News report:
Iran’s leaders have of late issued repeat threats saying they are poised to take revenge against those responsible for the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh outside Tehran on November 27.
It was later revealed that a satellite-controlled machine-gun with “artificial intelligence” was used in the attack, which Iran has blamed on Israel, likely with US intelligence assistance.
JUST IN: #USNavy‘s #USSGeorgia transits #StraitofHormuz with cruisers #USSPortRoyal and #USSPhilippineSea. Georgia’s presence in @US5thFleet demonstrates the fleet’s ability to operate wherever international law allows. #forcetobereckonedwith
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) December 21, 2020
The region is also on edge as it’s less than two weeks until the first anniversary of the US assassination by drone of IRGC Quds Force chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport on Jan. 3, 2020. For this reason US forces in the region, especially stationed on Iran, remain on high alert.
The US Navy also late last week engaged in joint war drills with Gulf allies in the area (the Arabian Gulf is a reference to the Persian Gulf):
“We will continue to enhance the abilities of our combined, joint force to decisively defend against maritime security threats.”
Saudi, U.S. Forces Conduct Joint Aviation Integration Exercise in Arabian Gulf.
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) December 21, 2020
It remains unclear whether the Israeli submarine will actually enter (or perhaps has already) entered the Persian Gulf alongside the US allied submarine.
If so, Israel certainly won’t advertise it at that point, or disclose the underwater vessel’s whereabouts. The IRGC would consider it a hostile enough act to respond, potentially setting off a chain of escalation leading to all out war.
@USNavy photos of the day: @USNavy and Saudi forces train in #US5thFlt, #USSJohnPaulJones live-fire and #UNREP with #USNSWallySchirra and Sailors stand watch aboard #USSJohnSMcCain. ⬇️ info & download ⬇️: https://t.co/5ktXf4POdT pic.twitter.com/Lay2Me13Wi
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) December 22, 2020
Crucially all of this build-up in tension also comes as President-Elect Joe Biden has vowed to restore US participation in the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA).
Iran has said if the US comes back with no additional conditions or any attempt to renegotiate, Tehran will return to the deal “within an hour”. President Trump has meanwhile strongly signaled he intends to derail any such future Biden efforts to restore the deal. Currently this is being done through ratcheted up sanctions on the Islamic Republic.