The US military’s top general says Washington has engaged in talks with a number of countries to form an international military coalition to deter what it calls Iran’s threat to shipping in the Gulf region.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that the US was proceeding with plans to assemble the coalition aimed at ensuring freedom of navigation in waters off Iran and Yemen.
“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Dunford said.
“And so I think probably over the next couple of weeks we’ll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we’ll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that’ll support that,” he added.
Several oil tankers were targeted near the Gulf last month, with Washington and its ally Saudi Arabia quickly blaming Iran for the suspicious attacks.
Tehran has rejected the accusations of its involvement as baseless, saying the incidents in the Sea of Oman appear to be false flags meant to frame the Islamic Republic.
Tensions have been running high between the two countries since Washington’s decision in May last year to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing it to renegotiate a new deal that addresses its ballistic missile program and regional influence as well.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran hit a new high after Iran shot down a US surveillance drone on June 20 following its violation of Iranian airspace. However, Washington insists that the aircraft was flying above international waters.
The United States has engaged in significant regional military buildup, including by sending an aircraft carrier, a bomber task force, an assault ship, and around 1,500 additional forces to the Middle East.
Tehran has time and again said that it does not seek military confrontations with the United States, yet stands ready to defend its interests in the region.