US dispatching Marines, more warships to ME amid rising tension with Iran

The United States is sending marines and additional warships to Middle Eastern waters amid rising tensions with Iran, the military announced Thursday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the deployment of a Marine expeditionary unit and an amphibious-ready group to the region, citing “Iran’s recent attempts to seize ships in the region”. A MEU typically includes about 2,000 Marines transported aboard three amphibious warships that can launch helicopters and watercraft.

The announcement comes days after the Pentagon deployed F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, as well as the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner.

“US Central Command is committed to defending freedom of navigation within our area of responsibility which includes some of the most important waterways in the world,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of Central Command, said in a statement.

“These additional forces provide unique capabilities, which alongside our partners nations in the region, further safeguard the free flow of international commerce and uphold the rules based international order, and deter Iranian destabilizing activities in the region,” he added.

Iran has repeatedly condemned the US for “warmongering” and escalating tensions with its regular military deployments in the region.

In comments on Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Nasser Kanaani slammed as “destabilizing and provocative” the US’ decision to dispatch fighter jets to the Persian Gulf, stressing that Iran has the right to show a reaction in order to ensure maritime and aviation security in the region.

Highlighting Iran’s sensitivity to the “provocative and illegal” actions near its borders, the spokesman stated, “Considering the control and capabilities of its armed forces in regard to navigation and aviation security in the Persian Gulf region, Iran reserves the right to make the necessary deterrent arrangements in compliance with international law’s rules and regulations, and will exercise its inalienable rights accordingly.”

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani has also shrugged off the US’ decision to dispatch a new fleet of fighter jets and a navy destroyer to the Persian Gulf. He stressed that Iran is projecting power in the region and beyond without feeling any threat.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of a Wednesday cabinet session in Tehran after the Pentagon announced plans to send additional fighter jets and naval assets to the Persian Gulf region despite Iran’s warning.

Iran does not care about the US, which is pursuing its own affairs, he stated.

“Basically, the Islamic Republic has reached such a stage of might that nobody would be able to threaten it at all,” the defense minister underlined.

The general added that Iran has even moved past that level and started to play regional and international roles.

“We are pursuing that role-playing,” he underscored.

In recent months, Iranian naval forces have impounded several ships off the country’s southern coast for their breaches of shipping safety law, with the US claiming that the moves are “illegal” and “endanger” shipping safety.

Tehran dismisses the claims as baseless, stressing the vessel seizures are in fact meant to consolidate the maritime law.

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