More than 3,000 American sailors and marines arrived in the Middle East on Monday, the US Navy announced, as Washington beefs up its presence in the region amid rising tension with Iran.
The navy said the increased presence “brings to the region additional aviation and naval assets, as well as more US marines and sailors, providing greater flexibility and maritime capability to US 5th Fleet”.
The deployment comes days after the Associated Press reported that Washington was considering putting armed personnel on commercial ships travelling through the Strait of Hormuz – an unprecedented action aimed at stopping Iran from seizing and harassing civilian vessels.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet Tim Hawkins, told Al-Sharq news on Monday that “the security of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is a priority for the United States” and accused Tehran of “repeatedly threatening the security of navigation over the past two years”.
Among the ships reaching the Red Sea on Monday were the USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall, which left American shores on July 10 on a mission the Pentagon described as being “in response to recent attempts by Iran to threaten the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters”.
The deployment has captured Iran's attention, with its chief diplomat telling neighbouring nations that the region does not need “foreigners” providing security.
Last week, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps launched a surprise military drill on disputed islands in Gulf waters.
This spring, Iran commandeered two oil tankers in the Gulf and seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet, which was carrying Kuwaiti crude oil bound for US energy firm Chevron Corp.
US President Joe Biden's administration announced in May that it was working to bolster Washington's defensive posture in the Gulf, including increased “co-ordination and interoperability of the International Maritime Security construct and European Maritime awareness in the Strait of Hormuz”, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.