For those who haven’t heard, six tankers from various countries have been attacked in the waters of the Middle East over the past few weeks. The United States, along with several other countries such as the UK and Saudi Arabia, are blaming Iran for these attacks, though the latter has denied these accusations. This is on top of the Iranian military allegedly firing a surface to air missile at a US drone that was observing two oil tankers passing through the area. Naturally, this too was denied by Iran, and tensions are running high.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday that the United States is sending one thousand troops to the Middle East due to the rising tensions there. Apparently, these troops are a response to US Central Command requesting more forces for defensive purposes, and to address air, land, and naval threats in the region. The Acting Secretary of Defense put it as follows: “The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region.”
Despite apparent evidence that Iran has been attacking civilian ships and threatening the interests of the United States in the region, the Acting Secretary also firmly states that the US is not looking for war with Iran.
According to reports, the two vessels attacked on Thursday were a Norwegian and Japanese tanker, hit by limpet mines, which are explosives that magnetically attach to ships beneath the water line. However, the Japanese owner of the tanker stated the ship was actually hit by a flying projectile, creating a discrepancy in the two reports. However, it’s worth noting that the means of attack does not exonerate Iran of any wrongdoing.
Regardless of the means of assault, Iran continues to deny involvement, claiming that the accusations are without any credible evidence, circumstantial or otherwise. Even so, many countries seem convinced of their guilt, including Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated very clearly that his country would not hesitate to confront threats in the region: “The kingdom does not want war in the region, but we will not hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty and our vital interests.”
Todd South of Militarytimes.com reported last month that “military plans to counter Iran include possible 120,000 troop deployment, cyber attack ‘Nitro Zeus’“. And while President Trump brushed off the NY Times version of this report stating, “I think it’s fake news. OK? Now would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we’re not gonna have to plan for that, and if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that”, it begs to wonder if that’s the direction we’re heading in.
How the one thousand troops the US is deploying will be used in unknown at this time, but it would be safe to assume the possibility of protection regarding further tanker attacks. The troops and resources may be used to watch over the Gulf and intercept or retaliate against more attacks in the future. However, this is only speculation. For now, we have no choice but to take someone’s word for the situation, and hope that the tensions over this issue does not escalate into something much worse later down the line.