Over 3,000 members of the United States military have recently disembarked in the Red Sea via two warships. This move follows Washington’s declaration of intent to enhance its military presence in the area due to escalating tensions with Iran.
The influx of extra troops transpired subsequent to the United States’ announcement that it was contemplating an extraordinary measure: deploying combat personnel on commercial vessels within the Persian Gulf. This proposition emerged in response to Iran’s seizure of tankers within that maritime expanse.
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On Monday, Tehran leveled an accusation against the United States, claiming that it was exacerbating instability within the region. Nasser Kanani, the spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, stated, “Historically, the US government’s military involvement in the vicinity has not contributed to security. Their vested interests in this area have consistently driven them to ignite instability and a sense of insecurity.”
Causes of Iran-US tensions
Negotiations between Iran and the United States aimed at reinvigorating the 2015 nuclear accord have come to a halt. In the meantime, Iran’s activities involving the confiscation of tankers in the region have intensified – a customary strategy during periods of heightened tensions with the US. In April, Iranian naval commandos commandeered an oil tanker transporting oil from Kuwait to Houston, Texas, on behalf of the US energy giant Chevron.
A separate incident occurred involving the Panama-flagged vessel named Niovi. While en route from Dubai to Fujairah along the UAE coastline, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intercepted the tanker on May 3rd.
During July, the US announced its successful prevention of two separate endeavors by the Iranian navy to seize commercial tankers. The Iranian navy resorted to firing upon the vessels in close proximity to the crucial Strait of Hormuz – a strategic maritime passageway responsible for facilitating approximately 20 percent of global oil and around 25 percent of liquefied natural gas transportation.
In a statement released on a recent Monday, the US Fifth Fleet disclosed that additional troops have been deployed to the region via the USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall warships. This deployment aims to furnish US forces with heightened flexibility and enhanced maritime capabilities.
What does it mean for the West Vs Iran clash?
This action is being interpreted as a measure aimed at discouraging what the West claims are Iran’s disruptive activities and at mitigating the escalating tensions in the region stemming from alleged merchant vessel harassments and seizures.
This deployment comes in the wake of successful endeavors by US forces to thwart Iran’s attempts to capture commercial tankers in the international waters near Oman on July 5th. An incident involving the Bahamian-flagged Richmond Voyager colliding with an Iranian vessel led to serious injuries sustained by five crew members, according to reports from Iran’s maritime services.
Earlier occurrences involved Iran taking control of two oil tankers in regional waters within a span of just one week in April and May.
Regarding the recent escalations, the United States had formerly disclosed its intentions to dispatch a destroyer, F-35 and F-16 fighter planes, along with the Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit, to the West Asia region.
The USS Bataan serves as an amphibious assault ship, capable of accommodating both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, alongside landing craft. In contrast, the USS Carter Hall operates as a dock landing ship, facilitating the transport of marines and their equipment, and facilitating their disembarkation onto shore.
Ramazan Sharif, the spokesperson for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, played down the United States’ display of military strength, asserting that the Islamic Republic has attained a level of potency that enables it to respond proportionately to any aggressive action by the US, including ship seizures. This statement was reported by the state news agency IRNA.
Under the influence of its Arab allies, the US has been urged to reinforce its security coverage in the vital region. In May, the UAE announced its withdrawal from a US-led multinational security coalition responsible for safeguarding shipping in the Gulf. Reports suggested that Abu Dhabi felt slighted by the US response to Iranian tanker seizures. In a move that challenged their alliance with Washington, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman declared their intention to join a Chinese-led naval coalition that includes Iran, designed for Gulf policing.
Responding to this development, Commander Tim Hawkins, spokesperson for the US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, expressed disbelief, stating, “It’s puzzling that Iran, the primary contributor to regional instability, proclaims its desire to establish a naval security coalition aimed at safeguarding the very waters it poses a threat to.” This remark was made in reaction to the initiative.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia view Iran as a major foe, but analysts say they have been hedging their bets against concerns about US disengagement from the region by reaching out to the Islamic Republic.
Last week, Tehran extended an offer to the president of the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait’s foreign minister to visit the Islamic Republic.