US plans Gulf naval escorts after Iranians menace
International Live: The Pentagon said Thursday it was discussing military escorts for vessels in the Gulf one day after armed Iranian boats threatened a British oil tanker. The White House’s nominee to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said Washington was attempting to put together a coalition “in terms of providing military escort, naval escort to commercial shipping.”
“I think that that will be developing over the next couple weeks,” Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Tensions in the Gulf have increased in the past few weeks, with Iran’s economy in free fall following the re-imposition of US sanctions after President Donald Trump pulled out from a 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
The rapid chain of events further complicates Britain and other European allies’ efforts to salvage the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement despite the US withdrawal. Milley’s statement came after London accused Tehran on Thursday of deploying three military vessels to “impede the passage” of a 274-meter (899- foot) BP tanker, the British Heritage.
But in France, a government official told AFP that they were not planning for the moment to expand their presence in the Gulf. “France is on a course of de-escalation,” the official said. “Sending additional military assets to the region does not seem useful to us.”
A joint effort would reprise the 1987-1988 US-led operation to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers from Iranian attacks during the Iran-Iraq war. ‘Unlawful harassment’ British defense sources told media that the Revolutionary Guards’ boats attempted to first stop and then divert the supertanker towards the Iranian shore.
The HMS Montrose, a Royal Navy frigate, then trained its guns on the Iranian boats and delivered a “cease and desist” message by radio. Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the US Fifth Fleet covering the Middle East, accused the Revolutionary Guards of “unlawful harassment” of the British vessel.
“We continue to work closely with the Royal Navy, along with all our regional and global partners who share in our commitment to preserving and defending the free flow of commerce and the freedom of navigation,” he said in a statement.
Britain and other European nations have been trying to preserve the 2015
nuclear deal by setting up their own independent trade mechanism that evades
US sanctions on Tehran.
Iran had been complying with the deal even after the US withdrawal but in recent weeks Tehran has increased uranium enrichment in response, consciously breaking its own obligations under the JCPOA pact in hopes of countering Washington’s moves.
Dhaka 12 July (campuslive24.com)//MIH