The US has sent its top military general to the Middle East – more specifically, to the Strait of Hormuz – as Iran continues to play a game of chicken with world powers in the waterway, which is used by tankers carrying 40 percent of the world’s oil.
United States Central Command (CENTCOM) commander General Erik Kurilla was aboard an American guided missile destroyer transiting the waterway, CENTCOM announced.
More than 3,000 US military personnel also arrived this week in the region.
“Amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 50) and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) entered the Red Sea after transiting from the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal. Bataan ARG/26th MEU units bring to the region additional aviation and naval assets, as well as more US Marines and Sailors, providing greater flexibility and maritime capability to US 5th Fleet,” CENTCOM said in its statement.
“An amphibious assault ship can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, including MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AV-8B Harrier attack jets in addition to several amphibious landing craft,” CENTCOM added. “A dock landing ship also supports operations for various rotary-wing aircraft, tactical vehicles and amphibious landing craft.”
The deployment was ordered last month by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “in response to recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships” in the region, CENTCOM said.
Naval forces from Israel and the United States held a four-day maritime exercise in the Red Sea that began on August 1. The bilateral training event involved US Fifth Fleet and Israeli naval forces and focused on mission planning, maritime interdiction and other drills at sea.
The Islamic Republic has either seized or attempted to seize nearly 20 internationally flagged ships over the past two years, the US military said. Among those incidents was Iran’s attempt last month to seize two commercial oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, opening fire on one of them.
Iran claimed in response on Monday that the United States was inflaming regional stability.
“The US government’s military presence in the region has never created security. Their interests in this region have always compelled them to fuel instability and insecurity,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani told reporters.