The Middle East has witnessed a recent deployment of numerous American troops and extra naval resources by the US military. The objective of this deployment is to discourage Iranian forces following allegations by Washington that Tehran has engaged in disruptive actions such as harassing commercial vessels.
The US Navy’s 5th Fleet made this announcement on Monday, indicating that over 3,000 marines and sailors had arrived in the Red Sea via an amphibious assault ship and a dock landing vessel a day prior.
Commander Tim Hawkins, spokesperson for the 5th Fleet, stated that these deployed units offer valuable operational flexibility and capability. They collaborate with international partners to counteract destabilizing behavior and reduce tensions in the region brought about by Iran’s actions of seizing and harassing merchant ships earlier in the year.
The amphibious assault ship leading the recent deployment, the USS Bataan, also carried additional air resources. Although the specific systems on board were not detailed, the military mentioned that the ship is capable of transporting over two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, including the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AV-8B Harrier attack jets. Additionally, it can accommodate various landing craft. The USS Carter Hall, a smaller docking ship, will provide support for operations involving landings or amphibious assaults.
In response to Iran’s recent attempts to capture commercial ships, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered this move in July, as stated by US Central Command. While Washington has previously accused Iran of such seizures since 2019, these allegations have gained more prominence in recent months, leading to multiple new deployments by the Pentagon.
In mid-July, the US Defense Department revealed plans to dispatch F-35 and F-16 fighter jets to the Middle East, alongside a guided-missile destroyer, in order to safeguard US interests and uphold navigation freedom. This decision was influenced by Iran’s actions deemed as “destabilizing” in the Strait of Hormuz. This followed an earlier naval deployment this year, and reports suggest that Washington is contemplating the placement of armed personnel on commercial ships to prevent Iranian seizures.
Just a day before the USS Bataan’s arrival in the Red Sea, Iranian state media disclosed that the Iranian Navy had been equipped with new weaponry, including combat and reconnaissance drones, electronic warfare gear, truck-mounted missile launchers, and a multitude of cruise and ballistic missiles. Navy Commander Alireza Tangsiri commented on these new capabilities, highlighting improved accuracy and extended-range striking capabilities.
Iran has consistently criticized the US for “warmongering” and heightening tensions through its frequent military activity in the Persian Gulf region. In response to another incident involving a commercial ship accused of smuggling, Iranian Rear Admiral Ramazan Zirrahi claimed that US warplanes had attempted to aid the ship’s escape but were unsuccessful.