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US considering armed troops in Strait of Hormuz to stop Iran seizures

This would be the highest escalation between the two nations since the one-day Tanker War in 1988.
Posted at 10:48 AM, Aug 04, 2023

The U.S. military is considering putting armed personnel on commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, in what would be an unheard of action aimed at stopping Iran from seizing and harassing civilian vessels, American officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Since 2019, Iran has seized a series of ships in the strait, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, as part of its efforts to pressure the West over negotiations regarding its collapsed nuclear deal with world powers. Putting U.S. troops on commercial ships could further deter Iran from seizing vessels — or escalate tensions further.

The contemplated move also would represent an extraordinary commitment in the Mideast by U.S. forces as the Pentagon tries to focus on Russia and China. America didn't even take the step during the so-called “Tanker War,” which culminated with the U.S. Navy and Iran fighting a one-day naval battle in 1988 that was the Navy's largest since World War II.

While officials offered few details of the plan, it comes as thousands of Marines and sailors on both the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and the USS Carter Hall, a landing ship, are on their way to the Persian Gulf. Those Marines and sailors could provide the backbone for any armed guard mission in the strait, through which 20% of the world’s crude oil passes.


Iran's mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment from AP about the U.S. proposal. Hours later, however, Iran's state-run IRNA news agency acknowledged the proposal, citing this AP report.

Five U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposal, acknowledged its broad details. The officials stressed no final decision had been made and that discussions continue between U.S. military officials and America's Gulf Arab allies in the region.

Officials said the Marines and Navy sailors would provide the security only at the request of the ships involved. One official described the process as complex, saying any deployment likely also would require approval of the country under which the ship is flagged and the country under which the owner is registered. So far, that has yet to happen and it might not for some time, the official said.

At the Pentagon, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder was asked about the plans and would only say that he has no announcements to make on the matter. More broadly, however, he noted that additional ships, aircraft and Marines have been deployed to the Gulf region, making it easier to respond more quickly to any Iranian provocations.

That effort by U.S. and partners, he said, is aimed at ensuring “the Strait of Hormuz remains open, there’s freedom of navigation, and that we’re deterring any type of malign activity.”

Diplomacy over nukes 'not an option' with Iran
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with with Iran's Foreign Minister

Diplomacy over nukes 'not an option' with Iran

White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby tells Scripps News they are considering "other options" to keep Iran from obtaining weapons.


And White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, speaking to reporters, underscored the importance of the strait and U.S. concerns about Iranian harassment of vessels there.

“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital seaway that has a huge impact on seaborne trade around the world," Kirby said. "It’s a critical chokepoint in the maritime world. And we have seen threats by Iran to affect that chokepoint.”

Earlier Thursday, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the head of the Navy's Mideast-based 5th Fleet, met with the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The six-nation bloc includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

While a statement from the GCC about the meeting did not hint at the proposal, it did say that Cooper and officials discussed “strengthening GCC-U.S. cooperation and working with international and regional partners.”

Already, the U.S. has sent A-10 Thunderbolt II warplanes, F-16 and F-35 fighters, as well as the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, and other warships to the region over Iran’s actions at sea.