US Navy on Standby in Strait of Hormuz

While the Strait of Hormuz appears calm in the aftermath of two reported Iranian acts of aggression toward commercial ships, U.S. military resources can respond quickly, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said in a press briefing with Defense Secretary Ash Carter yesterday.

U.S. Navy ships began accompanying U.S.- and British-flagged commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz after four Iranian navy patrol boats approached a U.S.-flagged merchant ship, April 24, and a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship, April 29. Both incidents were reported as acts of aggression, officials said.

Dempsey said:

The government of Iran stated [it acted] to resolve a long-standing financial dispute. There was reason to believe that was true.

While the strait is part of Iranian territorial water, it also contains internationally recognized commercial shipping lanes, DoD officials said.

Because of the way in which Iranian navy patrol boats approached the vessels, it was, as Dempsey said:

…certainly in our view a violation of international law, which is to say by force.

The chairman said Carter approved the U.S. Navy accompaniment mission May 1 while officials looked at whether the Iranian incidents were episodic or could become persistent.

Dempsey added:

It doesn’t appear that it’s persistent right now, but we’ve certainly got the resources in place should we need to quickly turn it back on.

The Iranian government must gain control of its [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] land forces and the IRGC navy.

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Image: US DoD