US seeks military coalition to safeguard Persian Gulf for commercial vessels

The US plans to recruit allies over the next few weeks to form a military coalition that would be able to keep safe the waters off Iran and Yemen, where six vessels have been attacked in two separate incidents over the past couple of months, Reuters reports.

The US blames Iran and fighters supported by Iran for the attacks.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday July 9th that under the plan, which had only been finalized in recent days, the US would provide command ships and would lead the surveillance efforts. Allies within the coalition would patrol waters near those US command ships and escort commercial vessels with their own nation’s flag.

He said that “we are engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab. I think probably over the next couple of weeks we’ll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we’ll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that’ll support that.”

The US proposal for an international coalition to safeguard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding areas has been gaining traction in recent weeks since a second attack, this time on two vessels, in June.

Although US officials had previously discussed openly its plans to safeguard the Strait, Dunford’s statement that any military coalition also would seek to increase security in the Bab al-Mandab, off Yemen, was new.

Nearly 4m bpd are shipped through the Bab al-Mandab to Europe, the US and Asia every day, as well as commercial goods.

Dunford said the United States would provide “command and control” ships but said the goal would be for other countries to provide vessels to patrol waters between those command ships. The third part of the mission would involve coalition members escorting their countries’ commercial vessels.

“This will be scalable, right? So with a small number of contributors, we can have a small mission. And we’ll expand that as the number of nations that are willing to participate identify themselves,” Dunford said.

Meanwhile, naval forces from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen have claimed that they foiled an attempted attack on an unidentified commercial ship in the southern Red Sea on Monday by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. The accusation was denied.

Spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said the Western-backed military alliance had destroyed an unmanned boat laden with explosives which the militants had used for the attack. A Houthi military spokesman called the claims “pure slander and completely baseless”.