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U.S. submarine transits Strait of Hormuz as Middle East tensions rise

U.S. submarine transits Strait of Hormuz as Middle East tensions rise
The guided missile submarine USS Georgia, accompanied by the USS Port Royal, transited the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said on Monday. Photo by MCS2 Indra Beaufort/U.S. Navy 

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The guided-missile submarine USS Georgia passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said Monday in a rare disclosure.

The submarine, which can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, was escorted by the guided missile cruisers USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea through the strait as it entered the Persian Gulf.

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The U.S. military rarely announces the movements of its submarines, and the disclosure comes as U.S. officials are on alert for heightened tensions in the Middle East. Jan. 3 marks the first anniversary of the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who died in a U. S. drone strike in Iraq.

"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 recently told reporters of potential Iranian or proxy reprisals coinciding with the anniversary.

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The statement by the Central Command on Monday did not mention the possibility of combating potential threats.

It added, though that the "[USS] 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."

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On Sunday, rockets were fired into Baghdad's International Zone, causing minor damage but only one casualty, an Iraqi citizen, at the U.S. Embassy.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attack, saying in a statement Sunday: "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. The same militias targeting diplomatic facilities are stealing Iraqi state resources on a massive scale."

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