US plans to form military coalition to safeguard Gulf waters from Iran attacks
Telegraph Reporters. The Telegraph•July 10, 2019
The US says it is planning to create an international military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, after several attacks on tankers in the Gulf it blamed on Tehran.
Under the plan, Washington would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts, while enlisted allies would patrol waters near those US command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation’s flags.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US was talking to a number of countries with the “political will” to support the plans.
“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandab,” Gen Dunford said.
“And so I think probably over the next couple of weeks we’ll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we’ll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that’ll support that.”
Iran has long threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes, if it was unable to export its oil, something President Donald Trump’s administration has sought as a way to pressure Tehran to renegotiate a deal on its nuclear program.
But the US proposal for an international coalition to safeguard shipping in the Strait, at the mouth of the Gulf, has been gaining momentum since attacks in May and June against oil tankers in Gulf waters.
Last month, Iran shot down a US drone near the Strait, prompting President Donald Trump to order retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off.
Tensions have also escalated between the UK and Iran over the British Royal Marines’ seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar last Thursday.
The Islamic Republic has warned there will be a response to the arrest, with President Hassan Rouhani saying on Wednesday that Britain “will realise the consequences later.”
Mr Rouhani called the seizure of the Grace 1, which was bound for Syria and accused of flouting EU sanctions, “mean and wrong” during a Cabinet meeting. He warned London: “You are an initiator of insecurity and you will understand its repercussions,” without elaborating.
Pacific Voyager, an Isle of Man-flagged oil tanker, is currently sheltering off the coast of Saudi Arabia amid fears it will be seized in a tit-for-tit response.
It was reported that HMS Montrose, a Type-23 frigate, was on its way to the Voyager’s position yesterday to escort it through the strait.
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