August 7, 2023
From Syria 360

The Cradle News Desk

The move follows US offers to station troops aboard commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz and Iran’s surprise military drills in the Persian Gulf

Thousands of US sailors have arrived in the Red Sea as part of a plan to reinforce the US military presence in West Asia, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet said on 7 August, as tensions between Tehran and Washington continue to escalate.

“More than 3,000 sailors arrived in the Middle East on August 6 as part of the Department of Defense’s previously announced plan,” the US Navy said in a statement.

The sailors arrived while traveling on the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship that can carry more than 20 aircraft, and on the USS Carter Hall landing ship. Both ships entered the Red Sea after crossing the Mediterranean Sea and passing through the Suez Canal.

The reinforcements will secure existing air and naval assets of the Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and operates in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Indian Ocean, including critical strategic choke points in the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal.

The move follows an announcement last week by US military officials to “deploy a security guard composed of Marines on board commercial tankers passing through and near the Strait of Hormuz, to form an additional layer of defense for these ships,” Fifth Fleet spokesman Tim Hawkins stated.

US officials say that US troops on commercial ships are needed to prevent harassment and seizure by the Iranian navy.

In recent months, the US navy has seized Iranian ships carrying oil in transit to China, in an effort to enforce US sanctions on Iran that seek to harm the Islamic Republic’s economy.

In response to the arrival of the 3,000 US sailors, Iran said on 7 August that “Gulf security is achieved through cooperation with neighboring countries, not with the American presence.”

Iran stressed that it and the rest of the countries in the region are responsible for providing maritime security in the Persian Gulf, addressing the Americans and other Western countries by saying: “You are not interested in that.”

On 3 August, naval forces of the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched surprise military drills in the Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa, Naze’at, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb.

The naval exercise was to “display the IRGC Navy’s might as well as combat and defense preparedness in protecting the Persian Gulf’s security and the Iranian islands,” an Iranian news agency reported, quoting the IRGC.

During the drills, various units of the IRGC, including infantry, naval forces, missile units, drones, rapid reaction units, electronic warfare, and aviation, were expected to exercise a range of military tactics.

The islands of Abu Musa and Greater Tunb are claimed by the UAE. Iran’s late shah seized the islands in 1971, just before the UAE became an independent country, and Tehran has held the islands since. Lesser Tunb Island was also seized.