By Rebecca Kheel
December 21, 2020 – 01:24 PM EST
A U.S. guided-missile submarine passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the Navy said Monday, in a rare disclosure of the movements of one of the United States’s nuclear-powered submarines.
The USS Georgia submarine, along with guided-missile cruisers USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea, entered the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, according to a news release from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
“Georgia’s presence in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s ability to sail and operate wherever international law allows,” the release said.
“As an inherently flexible maneuver force, capable of supporting routine and contingency operations, Georgia’s presence demonstrates the United States’ commitment to regional partners and maritime security with a full spectrum of capabilities to remain ready to defend against any threat at any time,” it added.
The release also highlighted that U.S. guided-missile submarines can “carry up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles” and “can also be configured to host up to 66 Special Operations Forces.”
The U.S. military rarely discusses the movements of its submarines. Monday’s announcement comes as U.S. officials are on alert for heightened tensions in the Middle East surrounding the upcoming anniversary of the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani was killed Jan. 3 by a U.S. drone strike while he was in Iraq. U.S. officials have expressed concern that Iran or its proxies could further retaliate for the killing near its anniversary.
“We are prepared to defend ourselves, our friends and partners in the region, and we’re prepared to react, if necessary,” U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters recently when asked about the possibility of Iranian action on the anniversary of Soleimani’s death.
On Sunday, eight rockets were fired into Baghdad’s International Zone in an attack targeting the U.S. embassy that U.S. officials blamed on Iran-backed militias. The attack caused “minor damage” to the embassy compound, but no personnel were injured or killed, the embassy said.
The Iraqi military said one of its soldiers was injured, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said one Iraqi civilian was injured.
“As Iraq struggles with COVID-19 and an increasingly dire economic crisis, Iran-backed militias are the most serious impediment to helping Iraq return to peace and prosperity,” Pompeo said in a statement Sunday. “The same militias targeting diplomatic facilities are stealing Iraqi state resources on a massive scale, attacking peaceful protesters and activists, and engaging in sectarian violence.”
Iran denied responsibility for the attack.
“We strongly refute @SecPompeo’s irresponsible anti-#Iran accusations, which blatantly aim to create tension,” a spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, tweeted. “Iran rejects any attack on diplomatic missions. The U.S. military presence is the source of instability in our region. No amount of spin can divert blame for its evils.”