US Navy Explains ‘Rapid Deployment’ of Ohio-Class Submarine to Middle East

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Last weekend’s deployment of an Ohio-class nuclear submarine to the Middle East is intended in part to “deter potential adversaries,” the U.S. Navy has said. It comes amid simmering regional tensions related to Israel’s showdown with Hamas militants in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The United States Central Command—known as CENTCOM, and responsible for U.S. operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of South Asia—announced on Sunday that an unspecified Ohio-class vessel had arrived in the region.

In response to a request for more information on the submarine and the purpose of its new deployment, CENTCOM provided Newsweek with a statement attributed to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, explaining the “rapid deployment” of the vessel to the U.S. 5th Fleet’s area of operations.

The submarine’s presence, CENTCOM said, “demonstrates the flexibility and dynamic ability to deter potential adversaries, reassure partners, enhanced maritime security, and ensure freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”

The Navy’s central command overseas some 2.5 million square miles in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. The region comprises a key strategic theater for the U.S., where America and its allies compete with Iran and its partners for influence.

An Ohio-class submarine approaches the Mubarak Peace Bridge while transiting the Suez Canal in Egypt on November 5, 2023. The boat has been deployed to the Middle East amid rising regional tensions.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

Ever sensitive, the region has become especially tense since Hamas—which is backed by Tehran, though retains significant autonomy—launched its October 7 infiltration attack into Israel. It killed some 1,400 people and saw around 240 others taken back into the Gaza Strip as hostages.

Israel’s subsequent “Swords of Iron” assault on Gaza has so far killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, according to the Associated Press citing figures from the Palestinian Health Ministry in the Strip.

Iran’s network of partner militias has also entered the fray. Lebanese Hezbollah fighters are engaging the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) along their shared border, while the Houthi militia in Yemen has launched multiple waves of drones and missiles towards Israel.

U.S. forces, too, have become involved. The Pentagon quickly sent two aircraft-carrier strike groups to the region to deter further attacks on its Israeli allies, while bolstering the anti-air defenses of American facilities in the Middle East amid increased attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

Last month, the U.S. responded to the spate of assaults with airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria.

President Joe Biden is pairing overt military support for Israel—which includes a large amount of munitions and other military equipment—with a diplomatic offensive designed to bolster Israel’s operation and build regional cooperation on the tricky question of Gaza’s future.

The Biden administration is simultaneously rejecting calls for a ceasefire and expressing its concern over the soaring civilian death toll. Israeli leaders, though, have made clear their intention to eradicate Hamas, regardless of the destruction wrought on Gaza.

However, there appears to be little consensus on how the devastated 141-mile Strip and its 2.3 million inhabitants will be overseen after the military operation ends. This assumes that Israel achieves its goal of destroying Hamas as a viable governing and fighting force.