As McKittrick of Closing Velocity puts it, we rattled a mighty big saber in Iran’s neighborhood today.  In joint military exercises with Saudi Arabia, the US launched a submarine-platform ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon:

The United States test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads during a joint military exercise Wednesday with Saudi Arabia, a Western military official said.

The Trident missile launch was carried out in the kingdom, the official said, but he would not give a precise location. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The U.S. has been strengthening missile defenses in allied Arab nations in the Gulf to help counter any potential missile strike from Iran. Like its nuclear work, Iran’s missile program is of top concern to Washington and Arab nations wary of Tehran’s growing influence in the region.

Apparently the White House has decided to get serious about Iran after fourteen months of extending open hands. Yesterday, in his appearance with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama said that he would press for harder sanctions over the next few weeks.   This should underscore the exhaustion of Obama’s patience with the mullahs — which should have come much earlier.

The Saudis are also sending a message here.  They have to live in Iran’s neighborhood, too, and they don’t want to see messianic Shi’ites armed with WMDs any more than Israel or the US do.  The sub launch tells Iran that they plan to cooperate with any military action needed against Tehran’s mullahs, albeit tacitly.  It also signals the Sunni regimes in the region to start taking harder lines towards Iran.

Will that deter the mullahs?  Probably not, but it will certainly have more effect than the wan efforts of this administration over the previous 14 months.

Update: The LA Times says that the Pentagon has denied that a missile was launched.  Stratfor says the AP got it wrong.