(Bloomberg) — Iran lashed out at the US after its rare move to disclose the deployment of a guided missile submarine in the Middle East over the weekend, amid heightened tensions and violence in the region.
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In a series of tweets on Monday that marked the Islamic Republic’s first official reaction to the USS Florida’s presence, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani accused the US of “warmongering and propagating instability and conflict in the West Asia region.”
The deployment was a sign of Washington’s “struggle to gloss over its decline in the world, as new regional equations are likely to shape a new order and eliminate the need for military forces from outside the region,” Kanaani said, in an apparent reference to last month’s China-brokered deal that ended a seven-year rupture in Saudi-Iranian relations.
A Saudi delegation arrived in Tehran over the weekend to discuss reopening the kingdom’s embassy following a meeting in Beijing on Thursday between the foreign ministers of both countries.
As Saudi officials met with their counterparts in Tehran, the Florida — capable of carrying as many as 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles — began transiting the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean Sea on Friday, according to the US Naval Forces Central Command, which is based in nearby Bahrain.
The nuclear-powered submarine is being deployed in support of the US Fifth Fleet, also based in Bahrain, to “ensure regional maritime security and stability,” said Commander Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the US Naval Forces Central Command, on Saturday.
Hawkins declined to provide further details on the mission or its timing, or to specify whether the submarine was headed to the Persian Gulf. It’s extremely rare for the US military to publicize movements of its nuclear submarine fleet.
But senior US military commanders have warned in recent weeks that Iran’s missile and drone capabilities as well as advances in its uranium enrichment activities now pose the gravest threat to regional security. The US military has blamed Iran-backed militias for a deadly attack on one of its facilities in northeast Syria last month.
The US submarine’s arrival coincided with the firing of six rockets from Syria toward the Israel-held Golan Heights, an attack that triggered an Israeli response against Syrian Army positions. Most Israeli strikes in Syria have been against Iran and its proxies, which have boosted their presence and influence in the war-ravaged country over the past decade.
Tit-for-tat violence also flared on other fronts. Israel hit sites in the Gaza Strip on Friday, which it said belonged to the Iran-allied Hamas movement, and retaliated against the firing of a barrage of rockets from southern Lebanon to the Upper Galilee in an attack claimed by the Iran-supported Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.
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