Iran said on Thursday it had “forced” a US submarine to surface as it was crossing the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, a claim the Americans promptly denied.
Admiral Shahram Irani, the commander of Iran’s navy, told state TV the USS Florida nuclear submarine was “approaching and passing in complete silence” when it partly entered Iranian waters.
An Iranian submarine then forced it to “surface and cross the strait,” he said, adding that Tehran would raise the matter with “international authorities.”
In a Twitter statement, the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said the claim was “absolutely false” and “represents more Iranian disinformation that destabilizes the region.”
No American submarines have transited the Strait of Hormuz recently, the statement said.
“US 5th Fleet continues to operate wherever international law allows,” it added.
Iran's claim is absolutely false. A U.S. submarine has NOT transited the Strait of Hormuz recently. The claim represents more Iranian disinformation that destabilizes the region. U.S. 5th Fleet continues to operate wherever international law allows. https://t.co/BDLHNlGASB
— U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) April 20, 2023
In a show of force, the US military announced earlier this month that it had dispatched a nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine to the Middle East to “help ensure regional maritime security and stability” amid increasing tensions with Iran.
In a rare move, the Pentagon released a picture of the USS Florida as it transited the Suez Canal on its way to the Persian Gulf. The US usually does not disclose the locations of its submarines while they are at sea.
The 5th Fleet patrols the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of all oil transits. Its region includes the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen and the Red Sea stretching up to the Suez Canal, the Egyptian waterway linking the Mideast to the Mediterranean Sea.
Washington has repeatedly accused Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps force of disrupting maritime traffic in the strategic Gulf waters.
Last June, the US Navy said three Iranian vessels had “interacted in an unsafe and unprofessional manner” as its ships transited the strait.
Iran has also recently stepped up attacks on the ground by its proxies on US forces in the region.
Last month, a US contractor was killed and five US service members and one other US contractor were wounded when a drone struck a facility on a coalition base in northeast Syria.
In a statement, the Defense Department said the intelligence community had determined the unmanned aerial vehicle was of Iranian origin.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said US Central Command forces retaliated with “precision airstrikes” against facilities in eastern Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Washington-Tehran relations soured after Iran’s 1979 revolution toppled the US-backed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and brought about Islamic rule under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The two countries severed diplomatic relations after radical students demanding the shah’s extradition took 52 diplomats and employees of the American embassy in Tehran hostage and held them for 444 days.
In January 2020, Iran targeted US forces at the Ain al-Assad military base in Iraq’s Anbar province, days after a US drone strike at Baghdad airport killed the Guards’ revered commander Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.