Dec. 22 (EIRNS)—The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet ostentatiously announced yesterday that the USS Georgia, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine converted to carry cruise missiles and U.S. Navy Seals, sailed into the Persian Gulf yesterday escorted by two guided missile cruisers, the USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea. The announcement included imagery of the submarine on the surface in broad daylight, complete with the deck-mounted housing for Seal delivery vehicles, and one of the cruisers. “Georgia’s presence in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s ability to sail and operate wherever international law allows,” the announcement declared.
The message to Iran is obvious: Don’t try to retaliate for the assassination of the nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh or the earlier U.S. assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani or we will bombard you with cruise missiles. The Georgia can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and the two cruisers can add several dozen more to that figure. “We are prepared to defend ourselves, our friends and partners in the region, and we’re prepared to react if necessary,” Gen Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters on Dec. 20. “My assessment is we are in a very good position and we’ll be prepared for anything the Iranians or their proxies acting for them might choose to do.”
McKenzie also claimed that while Iranian leaders would like to see further retaliation, they were still grappling with internal disarray that has followed the loss of a leader who was the “mastermind” of militant activity by groups from Iraq to Lebanon to Yemen. He claimed that Soleimani’s death had forced Iranian leaders to rethink their approach to the United States.
“The Iranians have never doubted our capability to respond. They never doubted that. But they’ve often doubted our will to respond,” McKenzie said. “I think that the Soleimani episode last January sort of set them back and they had to recalculate the will of the United States. We demonstrated a level of will that perhaps they did not believe that we would be able to have.”
McKenzie also claimed that Soleimani’s death “unhinged Iran’s ability to direct” the Shi’ite militias in Iraq. This is not necessarily a bad thing, he said, but does open the door for the possibility of unapproved attacks. “And we have to watch out for that as well,” he said.