The US has added 3,000 sailors and marines to the Middle East following recent attempts by Iran to disrupt commercial ship traffic in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding waters.
The US Department of Defense announced the additional security and ships to the region on July 20, after an Iranian court ordered the seizure of a tanker sailing in Gulf waters which had collided with an Iranian vessel. It came on top of almost 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels being harassed, attacked or seized by Iran in the region since 2021. The Strait of Hormuz is a critical chokepoint through which 30% of the world’s seaborne oil transits.
“These units add significant operational flexibility and capability as we work alongside international partners to deter destabilizing activity and de-escalate regional tensions caused by Iran’s harassment and seizures of merchant vessels earlier this year,” Commander Tim Hawkins, a spokesperson for the US Fifth Fleet, told S&P Global Commodity Insights.
The sailors and marines are part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) that arrived Aug. 6, the US Navy said in a Aug. 7 statement. Amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall entered the Red Sea after transiting from the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal. The US has also recently approved regional forces comprising F-35s, F-16s, and a guided missile destroyer, the USS Thomas Hudner.
In the latest incident, the US Navy on July 5 said it had foiled an attempt by Iran to seize two oil tankers sailing around the Gulf of Oman.
Two ships were involved, the Marshall Islands-flagged TRF Moss and the Bahamian-flagged Richmond Voyager, the US Navy later said in a statement describing the incident in detail. Hawkins said no new incidents have occurred since then.
Iran has said it’s seeking the seizure of the Chevron-owned Richmond Voyager after it collided with an Iranian vessel and then changed course, entering Omani waters. Chevron has previously said it has not received any notification of legal proceedings, court order or otherwise from Iran. “Further, contrary to some sources, the Richmond Voyager was not involved in any collision in the Arabian Gulf,” it said.
The crude oil tanker vessel was last observed in the North Pacific Ocean heading for San Diego, according to S&P Global Commodities at Sea data.
The Bataan ARG departed Norfolk, Virginia, on July 10 with Amphibious Squadron 8, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, Assault Craft Unit 4, Beach Master Unit 2 and the 26th MEU. An amphibious assault ship can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, including MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AV-8B Harrier attack jets in addition to several amphibious landing craft. A dock landing ship also supports operations for various rotary-wing aircraft, tactical vehicles and amphibious landing craft.
The US 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, is responsible for patrolling about 2.5 million square miles of sea and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Strait of Bab al-Mandeb.
Source : spglobal