The US is deploying thousands of Marines and additional forces to the Middle East following recent Iranian attempts to seize commercial shipping vessels, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
This latest deployment comes after the Pentagon said earlier this week that it would be sending F-35 and F-16 fighter jets to the Middle East, as well as the USS Thomas Hudner, a guided missile destroyer.
The new forces will consist of an amphibious readiness group and a marine expeditionary unit – known as an ARG and MEU, respectively – which typically consists of three ships and approximately 2,400 Marines.
Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command, said the forces would add “unique capabilities” to the region in order to “further safeguard the free flow of international commerce and uphold the rules based international order.”
The Pentagon did not specify which forces would be deployed. The 26th MEU, which is special operations capable, and the Bataan ARG, both of which are based on the East Coast, are currently deployed in the Atlantic.
Earlier this month, the US intervened to stop Iran from seizing two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, including one instance in which an Iranian vessel opened fire on a tanker. In both cases, a US Navy destroyer arrived on scene, forcing the Iranian Navy vessel to sail away from the area.
At the time, recently retired Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl said the incidents had “the highest attention” of the Defense Department.
Following the attempted seizures, the US began flying A-10 attack aircraft over the Strait of Hormuz, off Iran’s southern coast, according to a senior defense official. The A-10s were equipped with weapons capable of targeting Iranian fast attack boats and other maritime targets. The A-10s were originally deployed to the region in late-March following a series of attacks on US positions from Iranian-affiliated militias.