According to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, more than 3,000 Marines and sailors arrived in the Middle East on Sunday as part of a deployment intended to dissuade Iran from boarding and harassing commercial ships close to the Strait of Hormuz.
They boarded the USS Carter Hall, a dock landing ship, and the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship, all of which are capable of transporting several aircraft, including Osprey and Harrier jets, as well as amphibious landing boats and tactical vehicles.
These personnel are members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. The MEU, which has its base in North Carolina, “is capable of conducting amphibious missions, crisis response and limited contingency operations to include enabling the introduction of follow-on forces and designated special operations,” according to a release from Naval Forces Central Command.
According to U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the action last month “in response to recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships” in the Middle East.
Iranian officials have refuted claims that they “harassed” ships, saying, for example, that in one case they were reacting to a distress signal.
However, the Navy claims that Iran fired on one of the commercial oil tankers in July while trying to board two of them in the Gulf of Oman. Iran detained two commerce ships in a week in May, according to the United States.
According to a Navy announcement from July, Iran has “harassed, attacked, or seized nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels since 2021, presenting a clear threat to regional maritime security and the global economy.”
This weekend’s arrival of the ships and troops adds to the recent deployment of other U.S. military personnel in the region.
“In response to a number of recent alarming events in the Strait of Hormuz, the Secretary of Defense has ordered the deployment of the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, F-35 fighters, and F-16 fighters to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to defend U.S. interests and safeguard freedom of navigation in the region,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh stated during a briefing on July 17.