The U.S. Navy and regional partners are bolstering the rotation of ships and aircraft in the Strait of Hormuz in an attempt to curb Iran’s efforts to upend security in the region.
The move comes after Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet in the Gulf of Oman on April 27 and the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Niovi in the Strait of Hormuz on May 3. Over the past two years, Tehran has either “harassed, attacked or interfered with the navigational rights” of 15 internationally flagged merchant vessels, the Navy said in a news release.
“Iran’s unwarranted, irresponsible and unlawful seizure and harassment of merchant vessels must stop,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, in the release. “U.S. 5th Fleet and our partners are committed to protecting navigational rights in these critical waters.”
The beefed up presence includes U.S. Navy destroyers, U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters, unmanned systems and a variety of aircraft, according to Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a NAVCENT spokesman.
In an email to Navy Times, Hawkins noted that a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon with personnel from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Bahrain patrolled the region over the weekend.
“This demonstrates we are working with regional allies and partners to bolster our vigilance and presence in this key maritime chokepoint,” he said. “Iran’s uptick in destabilizing behavior has our collective attention.”
Last month, the U.S. Navy sailed its first drone vessel through the Strait of Hormuz. U.S. Coast Guard cutters Charles Moulthrope and John Scheuerman accompanied the L3 Harris-built Arabian Fox MAST-13 fast interceptor as it safely passed through the narrow waters.
MAST-13 continued on to operate in the Gulf of Oman, where a maritime shadow war has played out as Iranian forces seize oil tankers and suspicious explosions rock vessels in the region, including those linked to Israeli and Western firms. Iran has denied involvement in the explosions, despite evidence from the West to the contrary.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.