After Ship Seizures, US Moves to Increase Patrols Off Iran
Aircraft, drones, and Navy and Coast Guard vessels will try to send a warning message, officials said.
The U.S. military is about to get busier in and around the Strait of Hormuz as officials attempt to send Tehran a signal to behave after Iranian forces seized two oil tankers.
“We're going to increase the patrols in the neighborhood to ensure that we are seen, and that Iran clearly gets the message that we will not stand for this type of aggressive behavior,” Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Monday.
At the end of April, Iran’s Navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, and days later its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy seized a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.
Ryder’s announcement came three days after White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. would increase its defensive posture in the Gulf in response to Iran’s harassment of shipping.
The U.S. 5th Fleet was already working to better monitor and respond to incidents in the busy waterways. By summer’s end, the Bahrain-based command aims to establish a fleet of 100 unmanned surface vessels contributed by the U.S. Navy and regional allies.
In the meantime, Ryder said, the U.S. military will be increasing the “rotation of in-theater assets patrolling the Strait of Hormuz with the intent of bolstering our vigilance and our presence at this location.” Those assets include “manned and unmanned aerial platforms, as well as surface naval vessels from the Navy, [and] the Coast Guard, to help enhance our maritime surveillance.”
Ryder said he had nothing to say on Monday about whether additional equipment would be moved into the region.
He did say that the U.S. is asking allies to help with the increased rotations.
Iran has “harassed, attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged merchant vessels over the past two years,” 5th Fleet said in a May 12 statement. “This pattern of destabilizing behavior is contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security.”
Iran even tried to steal 5th Fleet vessels twice last year, including one attempt where they pulled two U.S. Navy Saildrone Explorer unmanned crafts from the water and tried to hide them under tarps on their ship.