The United States will deploy additional warships and marines to the Middle East in response to Iran's growing threat to merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday.
"Through these actions, the United States is demonstrating commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and deterring Iranian destabilization activities in the region," the Pentagon said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the deployment of a Marine expeditionary unit and an amphibious-ready group to the region, citing Iran's recent attempts to seize ships in the region. A MEU typically includes about 2,000 Marines transported aboard three amphibious warships that can launch helicopters and watercraft.
The deployments follow Iran's recent destabilization activities in the Gulf, which required the intervention of US and allied militaries.
In the past two years, Iran has seized or attacked nearly 20 internationally flagged vessels within its area of operations, US Central Command said.
"These additional forces provide unique capabilities, which alongside our partners nations in the region, further safeguard the free flow of international commerce and uphold the rules-based international order, and deter Iranian destabilizing activities in the region," Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commander U.S. Central Command, said in a statement.
In April, the Iranian navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker.
In early June, the US and British navies responded to a distress call from a merchant vessel transiting the Strait of Hormuz that was being harassed by three Iranian fast attack boats, as identified by US Naval Forces Central Command.
On July 5, the US military said it thwarted two attempts by the Iranian navy to seize commercial tankers near the coast of Oman.
Source: UPI - POLITICO