(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. military is readying plans to deploy armed Marines and sailors aboard the commercial ships of interested private companies after a spate of vessel seizures by Iranian forces in the Middle East, The Washington Post and The Associated Press reported on Thursday.
The effort has not received final approval, but it has buy-in from senior Biden administration officials and could commence as soon as this month, said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military planning. Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., have been flown to Bahrain and received related training, with additional personnel due to arrive soon aboard American warships.
A second U.S. official acknowledged the proposal is under discussion at the Pentagon but emphasized that it has not yet been approved.
A spokesman at the White House, John Kirby, directed questions to the Defense Department while noting the Strait of Hormuz, where some of the incidents have occurred, is a “vital seaway.” The United States, he said, has seen threats by Iran to close off this “choke point.” The strait connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, and the open ocean beyond. At least 20 percent of the world’s crude oil is moved through the strategic waterway.
The first official cited July 5 as an inflection point in U.S. discussions on the issue. Iranian forces tried to commandeer two civilian tanker ships that day, firing on and striking one of them, Richmond Voyager, in its hull, Navy officials said at the time. Iranian forces fled after the arrival of the destroyer USS McFaul.