Over 3,000 US Marines and Navy sailors arrived in the Middle East on Sunday as part of a previously announced deployment aimed at Iran as tensions are rising in the region.
The troops are part of an Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) and arrived onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall. The vessels entered the Red Sea on Sunday after transiting through the Suez Canal.
Responding to the deployment, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani accused the US military of fueling regional instability. “The US government’s military presence in the region has never created security. Their interests in this region have always compelled them to fuel instability and insecurity,” he said. “We are deeply convinced that the countries of the Persian Gulf are capable of ensuring their own security.”
US Naval Central Forces Central Command said the deployment is a response to “harassment and seizures of merchant vessels.” Iran seized two tankers in the Persian Gulf earlier this year, but the incidents were provoked by the US seizing a tanker carrying Iranian oil.
Under the pretext of sanctions enforcement, the US Justice Department seized the Greek tanker Suez Rajan in April and forced the ship to head for Texas instead of China as the US intended to steal the 800,000 barrels of Iranian oil it was carrying. According to recent media reports, US companies are hesitant to discharge the oil because they fear reprisal from Iran in the Persian Gulf, and the Suez Rajan is stuck off the coast of Texas.
Tensions have soared in the Persian Gulf since April, and the US has announced a series of deployments meant to deter more Iranian seizures. Last month, the US claimed it stopped Iranian forces from seizing two commercial vessels near Oman. The US military is now considering placing armed troops on commercial vessels, an unprecedented move that would significantly heighten the risk of a direct clash with Iran.