Israel reportedly dispatched a submarine to the Suez Canal and the Red Sea in what has been taken as a clear warning to Iran not to escalate tensions at this sensitive time of transition.
Two submarines set off from different ports several weeks ago, heading in the same general direction: Iran. One was the US Navy’s guided-missile submarine Georgia, a nuclear attack sub. The other was an Israeli-flagged sub, a diesel-powered Dolphin-class submarine often used for intelligence collection, that crossed the Suez Canal three weeks ago. Egypt reportedly approved the crossing, sending an Egyptian navigator to board the sub, which according to foreign reports has nuclear cruise missile capabilities, as it entered the canal and accompany it throughout. Once he disembarked, the Israeli sub continued toward the Red Sea, from where it could have veered left toward the Strait of Hormuz.
Were the two journeys linked? According to Western intelligence sources, the vessels were part of a coordinated American-Israeli show of force designed to signal Iran that any attempt to exploit the presidential transition period to settle accounts with the United States or Israel would be met with an immediate and powerful response.
The Israeli submarine story was first revealed on Dec. 21. Israel’s public broadcaster Kan television reported that an Israeli sub had crossed the Suez Canal “openly and with Egyptian approval.”
The report cited Arab intelligence sources, but Israel did not deny it. On the same day, Israel Defense Forces chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi issued a warning to Iran. “Lately, we’ve noticed a rise in Iranian threats against the State of Israel. If Iran and its partners, members of the radical axis, either directly or by proxy, take action against the State of Israel, they will find themselves in a very costly endeavor,” Kochavi said at a military awards ceremony. “The IDF will strike all those involved in activities against the State of Israel or against Israeli targets, whether in part or in full, whether near or far.”
Israel’s eyes are focused on the Jan. 3 anniversary of the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Soleimani. Western intelligence sources attribute Kochavi’s unusually detailed statement to intelligence assessments that Iran is planning to retaliate against Israel for this or other security incidents attributed to Israel days before President Donald Trump vacates the Oval Office or shortly after, before his successor Joe Biden has time to settle in.