US considers armed response to Iran’s ship seizures – media

US military officials have reportedly drawn up a proposal to place armed soldiers on commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz to prevent the vessels from being seized or harassed by Iranian forces in the world’s most important oil chokepoint.

No final decision has been made on the plan, which is being discussed by Pentagon representatives and Washington’s Arab allies in the Persian Gulf region, the Associated Press reported on Thursday, citing five unidentified US officials. If the proposal is approved, US troops would provide security only at the request of the shipping firms involved.

The complex process of deploying US Navy and Marine Corps troops on oil tankers and other private-sector ships would likely require approvals from both the country where the vessel is flagged and the nation where its owner is registered. And as the AP noted, “Putting US troops on commercial ships could further deter Iran from seizing vessels – or escalate tensions further.” The outlet called the plan an “unheard of action.”

The proposal comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran since the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – in 2018. The US has accused Iran of “destabilizing actions” in recent months, including seizures of several commercial vessels. The Pentagon last month announced the deployment of additional fighter jets and naval assets to the Persian Gulf region in response to “alarming events.”

Iranian officials have accused the US of escalating tensions with its military deployments to the region. An Iranian admiral claimed last month that multiple US jets tried unsuccessfully to prevent his forces from boarding an oil tanker that was suspected of smuggling. Some of Iran’s ship seizures in recent years have come in response to US and UK intercepts of tankers transporting Iranian oil to overseas buyers.

About 20% of the world’s oil supplies, or one-third of all seaborne crude shipments, pass through the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

US Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials on Thursday. The six-nation GCC includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. The bloc made no mention of possible US troop deployments in its statement on the meeting with Cooper, saying only that the parties had discussed “strengthening GCC-US cooperation and working with international and regional partners.”

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