Iran deploys more fire power in the Persian Gulf naval patrols armed with more drones and precision missiles US responds with 3000 marines and sailors
Iran has beefed up its naval forces, arming them with additional drones and precision missiles with ranges up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), amid rising tensions with the US over shipping traffic through the world oil market’s most crucial bottleneck.
The Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy officially took possession of the new gear at a ceremony on Saturday, state-run media outlets reported.
The systems include reconnaissance and combat drones, as well as electronic warfare equipment, truck-mounted missile launchers, and hundreds of cruise and ballistic missiles.
The announcement came after reports earlier this week that US military officials had drawn up unprecedented plans to place armed troops on commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz.
Just last month, the Pentagon announced deployments of additional fighter jets and naval assets to the Persian Gulf region in response to “alarming events,” such as Iranian seizures of commercial vessels.
Brigadier General Abolfazi Shekarchi, a spokesman for the Iranian military, denounced Washington’s proposed deployment of troops on private ships. “What do the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean have to do with America?” he told Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
“What is your business here?”
About 20% of the world’s oil supplies, or one third of all seaborne crude shipments, go through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage that connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Tehran typically accuses the operators of detained ships of shipping violations, such as oil smuggling. Some of the vessels have only been released after other countries free detained Iranian tankers.
The new missiles give the IRGC Navy better accuracy and longer range than it previously had available, commander Alireza Tangsiri said. “The cruise missiles can attack several targets simultaneously, and the commands can be altered after takeoff,” he added.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced deployment of 3000 marines and sailors aboard two ships the USS Bataan and the USS Carter Hall to the Gulf in response, to “deter” Iranian forces.
The US Navy’s 5th Fleet announced that more than 3,000 marines and sailors had arrived in the Red Sea aboard an amphibious assault ship and a dock landing vessel the day before.
“These units add significant operational flexibility and capability as we work alongside international partners to deter destabilizing activity and deescalate regional tensions caused by Iran’s harassment and seizures of merchant vessels earlier this year,” 5th Fleet spokesman Commander Tim Hawkins told The Hill in a statement.
A US Navy sailor stands watch on an amphibious assault ship during a transit through the Suez Canal, August 6, 2023. © US Marine Corps / Cpl. Nayelly Nieves-Nieves
The amphibious assault ship sent in the latest deployment, the USS Bataan, also carried additional air assets, the Navy added. Though it did not specify the systems on board, the military said that the ship can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, including the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AV-8B Harrier attack jets, in addition to a number of landing craft.
The smaller USS Carter Hall, a docking ship, will act as a support vessel for operations involving landings or amphibious attacks.
According to US Central Command, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the move in July “in response to recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships” in the region. Though Washington has repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of such seizures since 2019, the allegations have become louder in recent months, with the Pentagon announcing several new deployments in that time.
In mid-July, the US Defense Department said it would send F-35 and F-16 fighter jets to the Middle East alongside a guided-missile destroyer to “defend US interests and safeguard freedom of navigation,” citing Iran’s “destabilizing”activities in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s military equipment in a drill on Abu Musa Island in the Persian Gulf, August 2, 2023 © Sepahnews via AP
This followed another naval deployment earlier this year, while Washington is now reportedly considering whether to station armed personnel aboard commercial ships to prevent Iranian seizures.
Iran has repeatedly condemned the US for “warmongering” and escalating tensions with its regular military activity around the Persian Gulf. Following another encounter with a commercial ship accused of smuggling last month, Iranian Rear Admiral Ramazan Zirrahi claimed US warplanes tried to help the ship escape, but were unsuccessful.
US-Iran tensions have risen since Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. Efforts to revive the agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have failed, despite the change in US leadership when Joe Biden succeeded Donald Trump as president in January 2021.
Source IRNA/The HIll/RT/AP