Friday 15 November 2019
News ID: 67955
Publish Date: 10 July 2019 - 21:10
WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- A top United States general has announced plans to set up a coalition of allied countries willing to patrol key shipping channels in the Persian Gulf region.
General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that Washington plans to enlist its allies to patrol the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb.
The Strait of Hormuz is a key shipping channel in the Gulf of Oman, while Bab al-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen on one side, and Djibouti and Eritrea on the other.
"We're engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandeb," said Dunford, as reported by Reuters.
Last month, Donald Trump called on countries to protect their own ships as they pass through the Strait of Hormuz, saying that U.S. troops do not "even need to be" in the Persian Gulf.
But as part of Washington's plan, Dunford said the U.S. military would provide command ships and surveillance technology, while its allies would escort ships and patrol the areas.
The general said the U.S. plans to identify which countries "have the political will to support" its plans, "and then we'll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that'll support that".
The third part of the mission would involve coalition members escorting their countries' commercial vessels, Reuters reported.
"The expectation is that the actual patrolling and escorts would be done by others," said Dunford, who held meetings on Tuesday with acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
His comments come amid weeks of escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the U.S.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers heading out from Saudi and Emirati ports in the Gulf of Oman without providing any evidence to back up the claim.
Iran has denied accusations it is planning to attack U.S. forces in the region, or that it was involved in the attack on the tankers in June.
It has also rebuffed claims it was behind another incident, this time off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, in which four commercial vessels sustained damage in mid-May.
Still, tensions continue to mount between American and Iranian officials.
On Tuesday, a commander in Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Cops (IRGC) said on Tuesday that U.S. regional bases and its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf are within the range of Iranian missiles, the Tasnim news agency reported.
"American bases are within the range of our missiles ... Our missiles will destroy their aircraft carriers if they make a mistake," said Hussein Nejat. "Americans are very well aware of the consequences of a military confrontation with Iran."

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