Just a little over three weeks to go until President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan.20 and tensions in the Persian Gulf are at boiling point given not only the presence of a US nuclear submarine but allegedly a major Israeli presence as well. A week ago Israeli sources confirmed that an Israeli submarine had crossed the Suez Canal visibly above water en route to the Persian Gulf as a clear "message" to the Islamic Republic.
On Monday Iran's foreign ministry warned that Israel now risks crossing "red lines" should it enter deeply into the Gulf and thus Iran's own backyard, with ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh warning that Israel should be "aware of the risks of crossing Iran’s red lines."
"Everybody knows what the Persian Gulf means to Iran, and what policy Iran pursues about its national interests and security," Khatibzadeh said according to Tasnim news agency. The build-up in Persian Gulf waters comes after the November assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh near Tehran in a sophisticated operation widely blamed on Israeli intelligence.
Khatibzadeh added that Iran has sent "messages to the US government and our friends in the region warning the current US regime not to embark on a new adventure in its final days at the White House."
Separately on Monday a top level Iranian parliament member issued a more directly threatening response to the Israeli sub presence. According to new statements by the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Abolfazl Amouei:
Iran will not hesitate to give a "strong and massive" response to any Israeli submarine in the Persian Gulf, a lawmaker says, after the Washington Post claimed that Tel Aviv was sending one to the strategic waters.
"Israel must know that our response to aggression against our national security will be strong and massive," Amouei added, speaking on behalf of Iranian lawmakers.
An Israeli submarine has embarked for the Persian Gulf in possible preparation for any Iranian retaliation over the November assassination of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Israeli media reported.https://t.co/C9iHZIq1LU— Nukes of Hazard (@nukes_of_hazard) December 25, 2020
Echoing prior statements of both Iran's president and the foreign ministry, Amouei alleged that Israel and the outgoing Trump administration were busy looking to provoke a conflict, given the door is closing for such an opportunity as Biden has vowed to immediately restore US participation in the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA).
"Israel is looking for excuses to drag the region into a tension that creates chaos in the last days of the Trump presidency," Amouei said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
However, whether the Israeli sub is currently actually in Gulf waters or even as far as in the Strait of Hormuz remains a different question. Iran's foreign ministry downplayed this at the same time, calling both recent Israeli and a Washington Post report a "media assumption."