3,000 US Troops Deployed to Red Sea Amid Iranian Attacks on Merchant Vessels

Fast-attack crafts from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy swarming Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi as it transits the Strait of Hormuz from Dubai to port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, Arabian Gulf early hours of May 3, 2023, are seen in this screenshot of a video shot provided by U.S. Navy on May 3, 2023. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet/Handout via REUTERS
August 7, 2023

More than 3,000 U.S. military personnel arrived in the Red Sea on Sunday after months of Iranian attacks on merchant ships transiting the Persian Gulf.

Members of the Navy and Marines arrived on the USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall through the Suez Canal this weekend to counter Iran's "harassment and seizures of merchant vessels," according to the U.S. Naval Central Forces Central Command.

"These units add significant operational flexibility and capability as we work alongside international partners to deter destabilizing activity and deescalate regional tensions caused by Iran’s harassment and seizures of merchant vessels earlier this year," said Commander Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said, according to The Hill.

The United States' deployment of troops to the Middle East comes after Iran has for months harassed and attacked merchant ships in the Gulf of Oman.

Some of the ships intercepted were bound for America to deliver oil, Al-Monitor reported:

Iran's regular navy and the IRGC have attempted to seize at least five variously flagged tankers in Gulf waterways since the US government redoubled its efforts to enforce sanctions on the country's oil exports earlier this year.

"There's a vulnerability that Iran is trying to exploit, and is exploiting with these seizures," one American official said.

In April, Iranian navy commandos fast-roped onto the deck and seized control of a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker in international waters in the Gulf of Oman. The Advantage Sweet, a Chinese-owned, Chevron-chartered vessel, had been bound for Houston carrying Kuwaiti crude oil.

Video captured by the U.S. Navy last month showed an Iranian warship firing on a commercial oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman. The Iranian ship left when a U.S. guided missile destroyer arrived in the area.

Iran's government said the move is not about "security."

"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," said Nasser Kanani, foreign ministry spokesman for the Iranian government.

The deployment comes after the Iranian government detained a fourth U.S. citizen last month, potentially complicating efforts by the U.S. government to negotiate their release.

The families of those detained have criticized the Biden administration's slow action in negotiating their freedom.

"I honestly don't understand why the president hasn't called us, why he won't speak with us," Hannah Shargi, the daughter of one of the prisoners, said in May.

The families said they have tried to talk with Biden several times but have not been successful.

"We're three daughters begging for our president to talk to us, to bring our dads home. And I'd like to see that happen," Shargi said.

Published under: Iran