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US to enlist military allies in Gulf waters

Published: July 10, 2019 11:35:23 | Updated: July 10, 2019 17:50:37


From left, President Donald Trump with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller, speaks during a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, October 23, 2018 - AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

A senior general has said the US wants to create an international military coalition to safeguard waters around Iran and Yemen.

Marine General Joseph Dunford said he wanted to "ensure freedom of navigation" in the region, which provides essential trade routes.

Last month the US blamed Iranian-backed fighters for attacks on two tankers.

Gen Dunford said the US was in talks with a number of countries who had the "political will" to support the plans.

The US would provide "command and control" ships, he said, but the aim would be for other countries to offer boats to establish patrol between those ships.

Gen Dunford said the US would "work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities" each country has to support the initiative.

The Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab are essential strategic marine locations, providing access from the ocean into the Gulf and the Red Sea, the BBC reported.  

The general said the size of the initiative depended on the number of countries which decided to take part.

"With a small number of contributors, we can have a small mission," he said. "We'll expand that as the number of nations that are willing to participate identify themselves."

Everyday, nearly four million barrels of oil pass through the Bab-al Mandab to the rest of the world.

Why is the US so concerned about shipping?

The US accused Iran of attacking two oil tankers with mines in June, just outside the Strait of Hormuz - an accusation denied by Iran.

Days later, an unmanned US drone was shot down by Iranian forces in the Gulf.

Iran said it had violated Iranian airspace and would send a "clear message to America". The US insisted the drone had been over international waters. President Donald Trump tweeted: "Iran made a very big mistake!"

The US planned for retaliatory air strikes which were later cancelled.

Iran has said it would close the Strait of Hormuz if it was unable to export oil, a sanction that US President Donald Trump has threatened to impose if Iran does not renegotiate a nuclear deal.

"Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend Iran," said Maj-Gen Hossein Salami, head of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, after the drone was shot down.

There have been growing tensions between the UK and Iran too, after Britain said the Iranian regime was "almost certainly" responsible for the attacks on two oil tankers in June.

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