WASHINGTON - The United States has hammered out a plan under which an global military coalition would safeguard strategic waters off both Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-backed fighters for attacks, the top USA general said on Tuesday.
"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", Dunford added.
He said the US military's main role would be to provide "maritime domain awareness" - intelligence and surveillance information - to the ships of coalition partners that would conduct patrols in vulnerable waterways like the Strait of Hormuz, which separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman, as well as the Bab el Mandeb, a heavily trafficked strait between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.
The US military is aiming to form a naval coalition of allies that would guarantee freedom of movement in strategic waters around the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition to the attacks on the tankers, tensions in the region were also heightened when Iran shot down a United States drone near the Strait, prompting President Donald Trump to order retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off. Allies would patrol waters near those USA command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation's flags.
"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", he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Iran has long threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly a fifth of the world's oil passes, if it is unable to export its oil.
"Japan will stay in close contact with the United States and other related nations and continue to make efforts for stability and the reduction of tension in the Mideast".
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he hoped more than 20 countries would work together on building maritime security in the region, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
"The expectation is that the actual patrolling and escorts would be done by others", he said.
Dunford said the size of the campaign could be adjusted based on the number of countries that commit to it.
"This will be scaleable, right?"
"We're getting ready now to move out", Dunford told a small group of reporters at Fort Myer, Virginia. "And we'll expand that as the number of nations that are willing to participate identify themselves", he said.
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