US dispatches thousands of sailors, Marines to Middle East

The US Navy has deployed more than 3,000 sailors and Marine forces to West Asia under the pretext of protecting ships and vessels crossing the main waterways.

The US Naval Forces Central Command (CENTCOM) made the announcement on Monday, saying the forces from the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) had arrived in West Asia.

“Amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 50) and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) entered the Red Sea after transiting from the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

“Bataan ARG/26th MEU units bring to the region additional aviation and naval assets, as well as more US Marines and Sailors, providing greater flexibility and maritime capability to US 5th Fleet,” the statement read.

The statement added the amphibious assault ship can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, in addition to several amphibious landing craft.

The US Navy claimed the deployment was made following a call by the Department of Defense for additional troops after “recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships in the CENTCOM area of operations.”

The US Navy accused Iran of “attacking, seizing or attempting to seize” nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels in the region over the past two years.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy has over the past years foiled several attacks on both Iranian and foreign tankers in the strategic Persian Gulf region and other high seas.

The IRGC’s Navy confiscated more than 50 million liters of smuggled fuel, mainly diesel, in various missions last year.

Back in April, Iranian forces seized two tankers in the span of a week in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, one of them over a judicial complaint by a private plaintiff and the other over a maritime accident with an Iranian fishing craft.

In recent years, the US navy has several times seized Iranian-controlled tankers and shipments of oil en route to other countries, citing its own sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

Iran says it views US military vessels lurking in the waters of the Persian Gulf as a threat to its security and a source of tension and instability in the region.

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