Naples outraged over visit of US nuclear sub taking part in Syria strikes

A visit by a US Virginia-class submarine – the one that fired cruise missiles into Syria last Saturday – raised the ire in Naples, Italy whose mayor spewed vitriol over the sub’s presence in the nuclear-free “city of peace.”

The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has been particularly outraged after learning that the USS John Warner, an American Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine, moored at the port on March 20, about three weeks before the US-led missile strikes on Syria, local media reported.

“I would like to reiterate that Resolution 609 that was approved on September 23, 2015, on my behalf, has declared the port of Naples a nuclear-free area,” de Magistris wrote to Rear Admiral Arturo Faraone, commander of Naples port authority, as cited by La Repubblica newspaper.

The mayor said his decree prohibited docking of any nuclear-powered vessels or warships carrying nuclear weapons in “the city of peace.” He said Naples authorities are “respectful of everyone’s fundamental rights” and are “dedicated to disarmament and international cooperation.” Nevertheless, Rear Admiral Faraone replied that “the arrival and/or transit of foreign naval units in national territorial waters” does not fall within his office’s responsibility.

The USS John Warren has been named by the Pentagon as the one that fired a number of Tomahawk cruise missiles on Syrian targets last Saturday. The vessel has been the first Virginia-class submarine to fire the missiles on enemy targets, the US Naval Institute (USNI) said, also uploading what appears to be footage of the John Warner launching the missiles from a submerged position.

Earlier, the John Warner took part in NATO-led Dynamic Manta 2018 anti-submarine exercise that ran through the first half of March off Italy’s shores, La Reppublica newspaper reported. The naval wargames involved submarines and surface ships from Canada, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the US, according to NATO Allied Maritime Command.

Apparently, the USS ‘John Warner’ was not the only Western submarine to be present off Syrian shores prior to Saturday’s missile attacks. A British Astute-class sub, armed with cruise missiles, was also traversing these waters during the build-up to the strikes, The Times reported.

The UK boat was reportedly locked in a “cat-and-mouse” pursuit by Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and frigates, the newspaper wrote, citing military sources. The Russians were said to be shadowing the British vessel as it maneuvered “to put its Tomahawk cruise missiles within range of Syrian military targets.”

Though it reportedly spent several days trying to evade detection during “a tense and dangerous contest,” the Royal Navy submarine was not able to get any closer to Syria’s coast. “Ultimately the question did not arise: the British sub did not take part in the strikes,” The Times said.

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