The United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet announced on Monday that more than 3,000 sailors and marines have sailed into the Red Sea, transiting through the Suez Canal, in order to have greater flexibility in confronting the recent tensions caused by Iran.
The Fifth Fleet said the two US warships carrying the personnel, the USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall, would bolster the nation’s presence in the region, which includes the Strait of Hormuz. This strategic waterway serves as an important passageway for about one-fifth of the world’s oil and petroleum products.
The Fifth Fleet’s spokesman, Commander Tim Hawkins, emphasized the important role of the deployment in fighting the destabilizing activities of Iran: “These units add significant operational flexibility and capability as we work… to deter destabilizing activity and deescalate regional tensions caused by Iran’s harassment and seizures of merchant vessels.”
The US forces will no doubt have an especially difficult role. In the last two years, Tehran has seized or attempted to take control of more than 20 internationally flagged vessels in the region. And while Washington said its Navy forces were able to block two attempts by Tehran to seize commercial tankers off Oman’s coast in mid-July, the situation has only escalated since then.
The USS Bataan and the USS Carter Hall are both amphibious ships equipped with various weapons and land crafts, which allow for the transport of large numbers of personnel and their associated resources.
Given this capability, the concentrated forces of the Fifth Fleet appear to be gearing up for an all-out conflict with the Iranians, if it becomes necessary.
The Biden White House has taken an aggressive approach to the Iranian threat by placing F-35 and F-16 planes in the region, as well as an Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the deployment of the two warships is part of this strategy to potentially stand up to Tehran if required.
At this time, it is unclear whether these new forces will prove effective in deterring the Iranians, or if things will reach military levels of conflict between Washington and Tehran. But for now, the arrival of US warships and its associated personnel is necessary to combat the latest developments in the Gulf region.