The United States says it is working to form a military coalition to protect commercial shipping off the coast of Iran and Yemen amid heightened tensions in the region following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.
“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 Bab al-Mandab,” said Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“With a small number of contributors, we can have a small mission,” he said. “We’ll expand that as the number of nations that are willing to participate identify themselves.”
The straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandab are strategically important locations, providing access from the Indian Ocean to the Gulf and the Red Sea respectively.
About a fifth of oil that is consumed globally passes through the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Indian Ocean with the Gulf, while oil tankers heading from the the Middle East to Europe via the Red Sea pass must through Bab al-Mandab.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have grown since last year when Trump unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal that put a cap on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.
The US further blamed Iran for attacks on six oil tankers in May and June. The former blamed Iranian forces for attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, just outside the Strait of Hormuz — an allegation that Iran has rejected.
It followed an attack on four tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May.