The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and its accompanying carrier strike group (CSG) on October 28 entered the Mediterranean Sea to deter Iran from joining the Israel-Hamas war.
US and British marines also trained together in Californian seas earlier this month to deter Iran and assure Israel of support as part of a “global readiness” effort. These developments are taking place just as Israel is preparing for a ground offensive on Hamas inside the Gaza Strip.
This is following consistent reports of an impending ground offensive, official Israeli advisories for northern Gaza residents to move south, Yemen’s Houthi forces firing missiles at Israel over the Red Sea, and clashes between Iran-backed militias and US forces in Syria.
Inferno Will Swallow West Asia?
Fears of a regional war have been rife as the Israel-Hamas conflict is showing surefire signs of escalating. Iran and Hezbollah have long warned of directly intervening if Israel enters Gaza physically, which will engulf Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq and result in massive refugee flows into Jordan and Egypt, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Israel has intensified its aerial bombing campaign to destroy as much of Hamas’s overground infrastructure as possible. However, it also comes amidst condemnation of what is being described as a disproportionate force as a response to the October 7 attack in which Hamas fighters killed several hundred unarmed Israeli civilians.
Israel reasons the force is warranted against the “terrorist” attack and that the collateral damage is a result of Hamas hiding its military setup amidst civilian infrastructure.
However, a ground operation in a heavily built-up urban area is fraught with risks. Israel cannot avoid a ground war if it wishes to “destroy Hamas,” and neither has it been assessed to have bright chances of success if it decides to enter one, as a previous EurAsian Times reportage has shown.
Second US Navy Carrier Enters Mediterranean
Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) social media handles on October 28 referred to ship-tracking data to report the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. Naval warfare commentator Michael Sanchez said it was received by warships USS Mason and USS Gravely.
OSINT expert Avi Scharf, meanwhile, said that the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group (CSG) is already operating “West of Cyprus.” The two CSGs are meant to deter Iran from intervening in the war, as it has repeatedly hinted since Israel began its air campaign on Gaza.
Iran-Backed Militias Are Already Active
There are already signs of Iran intervening, based on the Iran-linked Houthi-fired missiles over the Red Sea and clashes between Syria’s Shia militias and US forces.
According to Alarabiya, “projectiles” hit two Egyptian Red Sea towns on October 27, injuring six people. Egyptian army spokesperson Colonel Gharib Abdel-Hafez called it an “unidentified drone” that crashed into a building adjacent to a hospital, injuring six in Taba, on the border with Israel.
Later, another projectile fell near an electricity plant in the desert town of Nuweiba, about 70 km (43 miles) from the border. Times of Israel report quoted security officials from Tel Aviv accusing the Ansarallah (an alternative name for the Houthis) of firing the missiles in a bid to target Israel.
A day prior, on October 26, the US carried out retaliatory strikes by F-16 fighters against two ammunition storage facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This was in response to a spate of attacks against American bases in Iraq and Syria.
Reuters said US and coalition troops had been attacked “at least 19 times in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed forces” in the week leading up to October 26.
British & US Marines Exercise To Convey ‘Readiness’
However, Washington seems to have begun signaling deterrence to Iran and reassuring Israel since October 9 itself, if a video released by the British Royal Marines is anything to go by.
The 40 Commando Royal Marines on X (formerly Twitter) showed a mid-sea helidrop, where naval special forces and ‘frogmen’ were released into the water along with a rubber dinghy.
The post said, “@RoyalMarines are operating in California alongside the @USMC 15th MEU and 1st Recon Bn. All part of maintaining a global, high readiness fighting force.”
@RoyalMarines are operating in California ☀️ alongside the @USMC 15th MEU and 1st Recon Bn. All part of maintaining a global, high readiness fighting force 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 #GlobalModernReady pic.twitter.com/1SS3Z2Jtv6
— 40 Commando Royal Marines (@40commando) October 9, 2023
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is a “forward deployed, rapid-response force” based at Camp Pendleton in California.
Whether this was in preparation for small teams of naval special forces entering Gaza via the sea for precision strikes on the Hamas leadership or military infrastructure is unclear.