The US Defense Department is sending its warships through the Strait of Hormuz at an increased pace. The operations are a reaction to rising tensions with Iran.
Last month, the US seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil to China. In response, Tehran took control over two commercial ships in the Persian Gulf. Washington was irate with the retaliatory seizures, with the commander of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, declaring on Monday that “Iran’s actions are unacceptable.”
After Iran took possession of the second ship, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced that the US military “will be making a series of moves to bolster our defensive posture in the [Persian] Gulf.”
However, Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, told the New York Times that Washington will not deploy more military assets to the region. Instead, Central Command is ordering more operations with the personnel and equipment already in the region.
Hawkins compared the operations to civilian policing, saying the naval missions are “sort of like when you rotate more patrols cars on a highway. They get off the exit and turn back around, and keep doing these loops.”
The stepped-up US military activity in the Strait of Hormuz – through which vast quantities of petroleum products are shipped – has been denounced by Tehran, which issued a statement blasting the decision earlier this month.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the continued presence of foreign military forces in the waters of the Persian Gulf as a threat to the security of navigation in this strategic waterway,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said, adding that Tehran “believes that the countries of the region have the ability to protect the peace and security of navigation in it without the presence of foreigners.”
While Washington condemns Iranian commercial ship seizures, Tehran’s actions are often in response to US and Israeli piracy against Iranian ships. American officials claim that Iran has interfered with at least 15 commercial vessels since 2021, yet the United States and Israel have seized or attacked over a dozen Iranian vessels in recent years.