Military Movements Around the Persian Gulf:
- On August 3, an anonymous U.S. official announced that the U.S. plans to deploy Navy and Marine personnel aboard commercial ships in the Persian Gulf in order to combat Iranian seizures.
- The official stated: “There is an effort... to employ security details composed of both Marines and Navy sailors on commercial tankers transiting in and near the Strait of Hormuz as an added layer of defense for these vulnerable ships.”
- Although no specific details have been announced, additional Marines, ships, and aircraft have already been deployed to the Gulf in preparation of Iranian provocations.
- Iran responded by equipping its navy with drones and missiles capable of traveling 600 miles.
- Iranian armed forces spokesman Brigadier-General Abolfazl Shekarchi questioned: “What do the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Indian Ocean have to do with America? What is your business being here?”
- Military personnel would provide extra security for vessels, but deployments on commercial vessels will likely take time.
- Military personnel can only board at the vessel’s request and approval of deployment would be required from the vessel’s owner and from the country under which the vessel is flagged.
Iranian Seizures of Commercial Vessels:
- Since 2019, Iran has seized and harassed numerous commercial vessels in or around the Strait of Hormuz.
- In July 2023, Iran attempted to seize two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz prompting the U.S. Navy to dispatch a guided missile destroyer to the scene.
- Iran has cited various reasons for its actions such as suspecting a vessel it had seized was smuggling oil and that it had a court order to seize another after it had collided with an Iranian vessel.
- Tensions between Iran and the United States have risen since former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
- The United States’ withdrawal restored crippling sanctions on Iran.
- Since the withdrawal, Iran has taken bolder actions in the region. Along with seizing and harassing ships, they have also breached the JCPOA by enriching uranium to higher than agreed levels and blocking inspections from the International Atomic Energy Association.
- The Strait of Hormuz is vital for sea-based shipping.
- Around 20 percent of the world’s crude oil passes through the strait which connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and acts as the only passageway from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean.
- Although most of the oil that passes through the strait is bound for Asia and not the United States, disruptions to the free flow of trade in the strait can lead to higher oil prices across the world.
- The decision is marked as an extraordinary commitment by the U.S. in the Middle East.