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US Boosts Forces in Mideast to Counter Iranian Maritime Threat

July 21, 2023
2 min read
The United States has announced the deployment of additional troops to the Middle East in the wake of recent Iranian attempts to “threaten the free flow of commerce” in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters
The United States has announced the deployment of additional troops to the Middle East in the wake of recent Iranian attempts to “threaten the free flow of commerce” in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters

The United States has announced the deployment of additional troops to the Middle East in the wake of recent Iranian attempts to “threaten the free flow of commerce” in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “has ordered the deployment of a portion of the BATAAN Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) comprised of the USS Bataan, USS Carter Hall, and its associated personnel and equipment” into the region, the Department of Defense said in a statement on July 20.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced it was sending additional combat power to the region, including F-16 and F-35 fighter jets and the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner. 

“Through these actions, the United States is demonstrating commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and deterring Iranian destabilization activities in the region,” the Defense Department said. “We will continue to work with like-minded allies and partners who are committed to the free flow of commerce to take appropriate, coordinated actions against threats to this fundamental principle of the rules-based international order.”

Bradley Bowman of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense and Democracies (FDD) said: “These significant new rotational deployments are part of the military buildup that the Department of Defense started in May in response to Iranian maritime aggression.”

“It is noteworthy that Iranian naval forces seeking to illicitly seize commercial vessels tend to think twice when the U.S. military shows up,” he added.

Since May, US Central Command has used P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned surface vessels, A-10 aircraft, naval destroyers, and minesweepers to deter the Iranian threat, according to the FDD.

Over the past two years, it said, the Islamic Republic has attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 18 internationally flagged merchant vessels and seized at least six, according to the FDD. 

Most of these incidents took place in and around the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil transits.

On July 5, the US Navy said it had intervened to prevent Iranian forces from seizing two commercial tankers transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman.

In both cases, the Iranian naval vessels backed off after the US Navy responded to distress signals, and both commercial ships continued their voyages, it said.

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