The Navy announced Monday it has a nuclear-powered submarine and a pair of guided-missile cruisers in the Middle East after the U.S. blamed Iran-backed militias for launching rockets into Iraq this weekend, not far from the American embassy.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine Georgia along with cruisers Port Royal and Philippine Sea transited the Strait of Hormuz, arriving in the Persian Gulf on Monday, according to a Navy news release. The service rarely makes public announcements about the whereabouts of its nuclear-powered submarines.
"Georgia's presence demonstrates the United States' commitment to regional partners and maritime security with a full spectrum of capabilities to remain ready to defend against any threat at any time," the news release states.
The announcement comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned an attack on the International Zone in Baghdad. Iran-backed militias carried out the strikes, which Pompeo said caused at least one Iraqi civilian casualty. No personnel from the U.S. embassy were hurt.
Pompeo called Iran-backed militants "the most serious impediment to helping Iraq return to peace and prosperity."
The number of personnel at the American Embassy in Baghdad was reduced, NBC News reported in early December, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
The U.S. killed Soleimani, the former head of the Quds Force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in January. Iran retaliated later that month when it launched ballistic missiles at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, injuring more than 100 U.S. troops.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters Sunday that the U.S. is prepared to respond if Iran launches another attack to mark the anniversary of Soleimani's death.
The Navy, in its release about the Georgia's transit, said the sub can carry up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. The sub can also host up to 66 special operators, it added.
"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 Navy release states.