Warships have been deployed to the Strait of Hormuz to protect American commercial vessels any interference from Iran. The move was prompted by Iran’s armed seizure of a cargo ship in the narrow waterway last week. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter approved the new policy on Thursday. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement that “American naval forces will continue to monitor the situation.
In recent weeks, reports that Iranian gunboats were harassing cargo ships passing through the strait reached the eyes and ears of the America military. An American-flagged container ship, the Maersk Kensington, was trailed by Iranian gunboats through the strait last Friday. On Tuesday, the situation escalated when Iranian forces fired shots across the bow of the Maersk Tigris. The Iranians then seized the ship and detained its crew.
The show of force is aimed at discouraging Iran from aggressive moves towards American shipping vessels in the strait. Military officials announced that American warships and aircraft would maintain a presence in and around the strait for an undetermined amount of time. The warships would also remain in contact with American cargo ships traversing the sea lane, which separates the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Sea.
Nearly 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, part of which includes Iran’s territorial waters, making it an important shipping lane for the world. The military is trying to balance the protection of the shipping vessels against a recognition that an overly aggressive posture could hinder the negotiations on a nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other world powers.