US military may put armed troops on commercial ships in Strait of Hormuz to stop Iran seizures

US Navy retail service specialist Artayja Stewart of Clarksville, Tenn., stands guard next to a machine gun aboard the USS Paul Hamilton in the Strait of Hormuz. (File/AP)
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US Navy retail service specialist Artayja Stewart of Clarksville, Tenn., stands guard next to a machine gun aboard the USS Paul Hamilton in the Strait of Hormuz. (File/AP)
US military may put armed troops on commercial ships in Strait of Hormuz to stop Iran seizures
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Iranian Revolutionary Guards are shown conducting a drill on Abu Musa Island in the Arabian Gulf in this photo released on Aug. 2, 2023. (Sepahnews via AP)
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Updated 04 August 2023
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US military may put armed troops on commercial ships in Strait of Hormuz to stop Iran seizures

US Navy retail service specialist stands guard next to a machine gun aboard the USS Paul Hamilton in the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Officials said the Marines and Navy sailors would provide the security only at the request of the ships involved
  • The US earlier sent A-10 Thunderbolt II warplanes, F-16 and F-35 fighters, as well as the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, and other warships to the region over Iran’s actions at sea

DUBAI: The US military is considering putting armed personnel on commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, in what would be an unheard of action aimed at stopping Iran from seizing and harassing civilian vessels, American officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Since 2019, Iran has seized a series of ships in the strait, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf, as part of its efforts to pressure the West over negotiations regarding its collapsed nuclear deal with world powers. Putting US troops on commercial ships could further deter Iran from seizing vessels — or escalate tensions further.
The contemplated move also would represent an extraordinary commitment in the Mideast by US forces as the Pentagon tries to focus on Russia and China. America didn’t even take the step during the so-called “Tanker War,” which culminated with the US Navy and Iran fighting a one-day naval battle in 1988 that was the Navy’s largest since World War II.
While officials offered few details of the plan, it comes as thousands of Marines and sailors on both the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and the USS Carter Hall, a landing ship, are on their way to the Arabian Gulf. Those Marines and sailors could provide the backbone for any armed guard mission in the strait, through which 20 percent of the world’s crude oil passes.




In this handout photo from the US Navy, the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan travels through Atlantic Ocean on July 20, 2023. (AP)

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment from AP about the US proposal. Hours later, however, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency acknowledged the proposal, citing this AP report.
Five US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposal, acknowledged its broad details. The officials stressed no final decision had been made and that discussions continue between US military officials and America’s Gulf Arab allies in the region.
Officials said the Marines and Navy sailors would provide the security only at the request of the ships involved. One official described the process as complex, saying any deployment likely also would require approval of the country under which the ship is flagged and the country under which the owner is registered. So far, that has yet to happen and it might not for some time, the official said.
At the Pentagon, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder was asked about the plans and would only say that he has no announcements to make on the matter. More broadly, however, he noted that additional ships, aircraft and Marines have been deployed to the Gulf region, making it easier to respond more quickly to any Iranian provocations.
That effort by US and partners, he said, is aimed at ensuring “the Strait of Hormuz remains open, there’s freedom of navigation, and that we’re deterring any type of malign activity.”
And White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, speaking to reporters, underscored the importance of the strait and US concerns about Iranian harassment of vessels there.
“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital seaway that has a huge impact on seaborne trade around the world,” Kirby said. “It’s a critical chokepoint in the maritime world. And we have seen threats by Iran to affect that chokepoint.”




Speedboats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards participate during a drill in the Arabian Gulf on Aug. 3, 2023. (Sepahnews via AP)

Earlier Thursday, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the head of the Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, met with the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The six-nation bloc includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
While a statement from the GCC about the meeting did not hint at the proposal, it did say that Cooper and officials discussed “strengthening GCC-US cooperation and working with international and regional partners.”
The Bataan and Carter Hall left Norfolk, Virginia, on July 10 on a mission the Pentagon described as being “in response to recent attempts by Iran to threaten the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters.” The Bataan passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea last week on its way to the Mideast.
Already, the US has sent A-10 Thunderbolt II warplanes, F-16 and F-35 fighters, as well as the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, and other warships to the region over Iran’s actions at sea.
The deployment has captured Iran’s attention, with its chief diplomat telling neighboring nations that the region doesn’t need “foreigners” providing security. On Wednesday, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched a surprise military drill on disputed islands in the Arabian Gulf, with swarms of small fast boats, paratroopers and missile units taking part.
The renewed hostilities come as Iran now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels after the collapse of its 2015 nuclear deal. International inspectors also believe it has enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear bombs if it chose to build them. Iran maintains its program is for peaceful purposes, and US intelligence agencies assess Tehran is not pursuing an atomic bomb.
The US also has pursued ships across the world believed to be carrying sanctioned Iranian oil. Oil industry worries over another seizure by Iran likely has left a ship allegedly carrying Iranian oil stranded off Texas as no company has yet to unload it.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
  • Gulf ministers briefed on breakdown in talks over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry on Sunday highlighted the importance of Cairo maintaining its strong links with Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

His comments came as he took part in a joint consultative meeting of Egypt and GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh.

In a speech, Shoukry noted the increased significance of political consultation in tackling key issues of mutual concern and the shared social and economic strategic interests of Egypt and council member nations.

He also pointed out that solid relations between the parties were vital in working toward stability in the region and dealing with the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that during the meeting in the Saudi capital, Shoukry warned of the disastrous humanitarian repercussions of any ground military operation by Israel in the city of Rafah and the threat such action would pose to regional security.

And he called on Israel to stop obstructing the access of humanitarian aid to the Strip.

The Egyptian minister also discussed with his GCC counterparts continued Iran-backed Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea, along with the latest situations in Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Somalia.

Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Shoukry highlighted what he described as Ethiopia’s uncompromising approach to tackling project issues with its neighbors, a stance that had led Cairo to withdraw from negotiations.

GCC Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi said it was crucial that Arab nations cooperated in dealing with regional challenges including bringing about a Gaza ceasefire and ensuring Nile water security for Egypt and Sudan.


Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
  • The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant
  • He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation

CAIRO: Alaa Moussa, Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon, participated in a meeting of the ambassadors of the five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, France, the US, and Qatar.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo said Egypt participated in the meeting to support Lebanon and promote its stability.

The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant.

He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation.

Moussa and other ambassadors emphasized the five-nation group’s role: to assist Lebanese parties in reaching a fair and transparent agreement on electing the president through dialogue or consultation.

The five-nation group will not interfere with the appointment of the next Lebanese president, which is the exclusive role of the Lebanese parliament.

Mikati said he appreciated the five countries’ efforts to support Lebanon in facing its current challenges.

He also said electing a new president is crucial in completing Lebanon’s state institutions and implementing necessary political and economic reforms to overcome the current crises.

The Arab and international community launched the coordination framework last year to support Lebanon, which has been without a president since the end of former President Michel Aoun’s term in October 2022.


Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
Updated 12 min 32 sec ago
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Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
  • The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia vowed on Sunday to target more UK ships in the Red Sea, despite growing worldwide outrage over the sinking of a vessel carrying thousands of tonnes of fertilizer. 

Hussein Al-Ezzi, the group’s deputy foreign minister, said that its forces would continue sinking ships in the Red Sea, even if it meant causing an ecological disaster off Yemen’s coasts. He also blamed the UK for participating in US-led strikes against Houthi areas, as well as supporting Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Ezzi said in a post on X: “Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damage will be added to Britain’s bill, as it is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring the ongoing crime against civilians in Gaza.”

The Houthi threats came a day after the Yemeni government and the US Central Command announced that the Belize-flagged Rubymar, which was hit by the militia’s missiles last month, sank with a cargo of more than 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer, raising concerns about possible environmental disaster for Red Sea coral reefs, along with shipping using the route.

The Houthis said that the ship was owned by the UK and was targeted in retribution for the country’s strikes on Yemen, as well as its backing for Israel’s blockade and bombing of Gaza.

The Houthis have seized the commercial ship Galaxy Leader and launched hundreds of drones and missile strikes against commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab, and the Gulf of Aden, since November.

The group says it has banned any Israel-bound ships from passing across the Red Sea in order to force Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Yemen’s Minister of Transport Abdul Salam Humaid said in a statement on Saturday that he had asked the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea & Gulf of Aden, based in Jeddah, and other marine conservation bodies for assistance in containing any pollution from the ship, as well as help in forming a legal commission to force the ship’s owners to remove the vessel and its cargo.

The US Central Command said on Sunday that the ship’s cargo of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer constituted a hazard to nautical life, and that the sinking ship was also a risk to other vessels passing through the Red Sea.

The US military said in a statement: “As the ship sinks, it also presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway. The Houthis pose a heightened threat to global maritime activities.”

Despite worldwide condemnation and warnings about the consequences of its actions, the Houthis have renewed threats to obstruct a rescue mission for the ship prior to humanitarian aid arriving in Gaza.

Yemen’s Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi blamed the sinking of the Rubymar on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government, saying on Saturday that his group would only let the world rescue the ship if Israel lifted its siege of Gaza.

Al-Houthi said on X: “We say to Sunak, you and your government are responsible for the (sinking of the) ship MV Rubymar, as well as for supporting genocide and the blockade of Gaza.”

The militia has said it would release the crew of the Galaxy Leader if requested to do so by Hamas.

Nasr Al-Din Amer, a Houthi media official, said: “Given that the crew was operating on a ship related to Israel, their governments may make a request to the brothers in the Hamas organization, and if they accept, we have no objections.”


Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah
Updated 03 March 2024
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Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah
  • The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah
  • The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags

RAFAH: Born a few weeks into the Gaza war, infant twins Wesam and Naeem Abu Anza were buried on Sunday, the youngest of 14 members of the same family whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.
Their mother, Rania Abu Anza, held one of the twins, its tiny body wrapped in a white shroud, to her cheek and stroked its head during the funeral on Sunday. A mourner held the second baby close by, pale blue pyjamas visible beneath a shroud.
“My heart is gone,” wept Abu Anza, whose husband was also killed, as mourners comforted her. She resisted when asked to release the body of one of the babies ahead of burial. “Leave her with me,” she said, in a low voice.
The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah, according to the health ministry in Gaza. Abu Anza said she had given birth to them — her first children — after 11 years of marriage.
“We were asleep, we were not shooting and we were not fighting. What is their fault? What is their fault, what is her fault?” Abu Anza said.
“How will I continue to live now?“
Relatives said the twins had been born some four months ago, about a month into the war which began on Oct. 7, when Hamas stormed Israel, in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s offensive has killed more than 30,000 people in the Gaza Strip since then, according to Gaza health authorities, laying waste to the territory and uprooting most of its population.
The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags. A man wept over the body of one of the dead, a child wearing pyjamas. “God have mercy on her, God have mercy on her,” said another man, consoling him.
Abu Anza said she had been wishing for a ceasefire before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which begins around March 10.
US President Joe Biden has expressed hope one will be agreed by then. “We were preparing for Ramadan, how am I supposed to live my life? How?” she said.


Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war
Updated 03 March 2024
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Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war
  • Meeting held on the sidelines of GCC ministerial session
  • Foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco discuss Gaza

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council carried its 159th ministerial session in Riyadh on Sunday, while separate meetings were held involving the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.

Joint ministerial meeting held on the sidelines between the GCC and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that what is happening in Gaza is a systematic plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Adding that "Security solutions to the conflict have brought nothing but destruction to the region, and the escalation in Gaza extended to the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab"

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Jasem Mohammed Al-Budaiwi firmly reiterated the collective stance of the GCC nations, denouncing the severe Israeli infringements of international humanitarian law in Gaza, particularly its consistent and direct targeting of civilians. Al-Budaiwi also underscored the immediate need for a ceasefire.

Al-Budaiwi also pointed out GCC rejection of any measure that would affect Egypt’s right to the Nile waters and stressed the necessity to reach an agreement on the Renaissance Dam.