The United States might offer armed sailors and Marines to commercial ships transiting the Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, in an attempt to foil any plans by Iran to stop, board, and seize ships in international waters as they pass through the key seaway.
The Pentagon last month deployed additional F-35 and F-16 fighter jets along with a warship to the Middle East in a bid to monitor key waterways in the region following Iran’s seizure and harassment of commercial shipping vessels, as Breitbart News reported.
That boost in regional force came as White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged “a real increase” in Iranian attacks on shipping in the area of the Strait of Hormuz and this behavior, that “threatens U.S. and global interests quite a bit” is “certainly spiking now.”
White House: Iran’s Attacks on Shipping Are ‘Certainly Spiking Now’ and They Threaten American Interests ‘Quite a Bit’
American officials told the Associated Press on Thursday about the latest plan, detailing a move that would represent an extraordinary commitment in the Mideast by U.S. forces as the Pentagon tries to focus on Russia and China.
Five U.S. officials, who spoke with the outlet on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposal, acknowledged its broad details. The officials stressed no final decision had been made and that discussions continue between U.S. military officials and America’s Gulf Arab allies in the region. AP added:
Officials said the Marines and Navy sailors would provide the security only at the request of the ships involved. One official described the process as complex, saying any deployment likely also would require approval of the country under which the ship is flagged and the country under which the owner is registered.
So far, that has yet to happen and it might not for some time, the official said.
Kirby, speaking to reporters, underscored the importance of the strait and U.S. concerns about Iranian harassment of vessels there.
“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital seaway that has a huge impact on seaborne trade around the world,” Kirby said. “It’s a critical chokepoint in the maritime world. And we have seen threats by Iran to affect that chokepoint.”
FLASHBACK: Iran Speedboats Close on U.S. Navy Warship
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet
Earlier Thursday, AP reports Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the head of the Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, met with the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The six-nation bloc includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
While a statement from the GCC about the meeting did not hint at the proposal, it did say that Cooper and officials discussed “strengthening GCC-U.S. cooperation and working with international and regional partners.”
About a fifth of the world’s crude oil and oil products passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow choke point between Iran and Oman.
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