US Central Command chief Gen Michael Kurilla this week travelled the Strait of Hormuz aboard a destroyer on a visit to the Gulf, Centcom said on Tuesday.
The general's visit came following the arrival of more than 3,000 American sailors and marines in the Red Sea as part of the US Navy's Fifth fleet, as Washington continues to bolster its Gulf presence amid simmering tension with Iran.
“These trips to the region provide me deep insights into the relationships with our partners and the readiness of the US and coalition forces deployed there,” Gen Kurilla said.
He was joined by the Fifth Fleet's commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper aboard the USS Thomas Hudner “while it was under way on a transit of the Strait of Hormuz”, Centcom said.
The Fifth Fleet has sharpened its focus on the Strait in recent weeks. A Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday: "We've continued to see Iran or the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] disrupting the free flow of commerce within the region, which is why the Secretary [of Defence, Lloyd Austin] made the decision that he did to deploy capabilities and more forces into the region to disrupt the IRGC from continuing its activity within the Strait of Hormuz."
Gen Kurilla's visit also comes days after it was 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.
Centcom said that Gen Kurilla made a stop in the UAE and then sailed on to Bahrain, home of the Fifth Fleet, where he was received by King Hamad.
Tehran ramped up its rhetoric this week after the announcement of the US troop deployment.
“Iran has reached such a high degree of power and capability that can respond in kind to any US action and mischief [in the region], including the seizure of ships,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' spokesman Gen Ramezan Sharif said on Monday.
He added that “in any direct battle between Iran and the United States during recent years, regional countries have seen the weakness of America and the power of the Islamic Republic”, arguing the region “understood” the Gulf's security “must be established by its own littoral countries”.
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.