Navy to provide escort for US-flagged commercial ships in Strait of Hormuz

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In response to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s seizure of the Maersk Line ship, the Tigris, the Pentagon announced today the U.S. Navy will commence escorting commercial ships bearing a U.S. flag through the Strait of Hormuz, the site of the Tigris’ seizure.

In the Pentagon plan unveiled today, Defense Department officials added that not all commercial ships displaying American flags would be accompanied by U.S warships; however, the Pentagon did not rule out escorts for all U.S. ships in the future.   According to CNN, an unnamed U.S. official said:  “This is the way to reduce the risk of confrontation.”  Another unnamed U.S. official told CNN:  “If it becomes necessary, U.S. warships are prepared to escort U.S. commercial vessels throughout the entire Gulf.”  The United States maintains a constant presence in the region with the Fifth Fleet, from the Middle East through the southeast coast of Africa.

The presence of U.S. warships should discourage the clerics in Tehran from their shenanigans on the high seas.

The Straits of Hormuz, a twenty-one-mile artery between Oman and Iran, is a tapered watercourse deluged with ship traffic and is one of the most vital maritime passages in the world.  Seizing unarmed cargo ships on open seas is no gentlemanly endeavor and is a blatant violation of international law.  Admittedly, our options to make Iran pay a price are limited, but they are not nonexistent.  In face of Iran’s actions, this is a practical application to dissuade any further extraordinary intrusions and safeguard liberty on open shipping lanes.  A bleak if not miserable alternative is to remain idle and witness actions similar to Somali piracy.

Protestations or appeals for cooperation directed at Tehran will achieve nothing:  Iran is a state where the clerics do as they please, but the specter of U.S. destroyers as a companion to commercial ships and dark hints at further U.S. military activity to redress Iranian injustice may avert the possibility of the the high seas from crumbling into lawlessness.

The Pentagon’s strategy is a necessary and proportional response to Iran’s reckless scheming and will prevent commercial ships from navigating with uncertainty.  Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, for the uninterrupted conduct of commerce free of menacing forces is essential and a right.

[CNN] [WSJ] [marinetraffic.org]