(TELESUR) – The United States hopes to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks, a top U.S. general said Tuesday.
Under the plan, which has only been finalized in recent days, the United States would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts for the military coalition. Allies would patrol waters near those U.S. command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation’s flags.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, articulated those details to reporters following meetings Tuesday about it with acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“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 the Bab al-Mandab,” Dunford said.
“And so I think probably over the next couple of weeks we’ll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we’ll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that’ll support that.”
The Strait of Hormuz is a crucial shipping route in the Gulf of Oman, while Bab al-Mandeb strait is located between Yemen on one side, and Djibouti and Eritrea on the other.
The deputy chief cabinet secretary of Japan, one of Washington’s key global allies, declined to comment directly when asked about Dunford’s comments.
“We are quite concerned about mounting tensions in the Mideast, and guaranteeing safe passage in the Hormuz Strait is vital to our nation’s energy security, as well as to the peace and prosperity of international society,” Kotaro Nogami told a regular news conference in Tokyo Wednesday.
“Japan will stay in close contact with the United States and other related nations and continue to make efforts for stability and the reduction of tension in the Mideast.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander said Tuesday that U.S. bases and aircraft carriers in the Gulf are within the range of Iranian missiles.
“American bases are within the range of our missiles,” said Hossein Nejat said referring to the U.S. “Our missiles will destroy their aircraft carriers if they make a mistake. Americans are very well aware of the consequences of a military confrontation with Iran.”
Tensions have escalated between Iran and the U.S. since the later unilaterally pulled out from the 2015 Nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Iran.
The deal between Iran and six world powers, namely the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, lifted most international sanctions against Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear work. Under the deal, Iran agreed to enrich uranium to a maximum 3.67 percent which is enough to generate power but far below the weapons-grade level of 90 percent.
Since the U.S. pullout, Iran has enriched uranium and produced more than the allowed limit to challenge the sanctions, which is meant to pressure the European partners into sticking with the deal. A top French diplomat was in Tehran Wednesday to meet with high government officials in efforts to salvage the nuclear deal.
Conflict also has risen when two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf for which the U.S. blamed Iran and then when spying drones of the North American country invaded Iran’s airspace only to be brought down by it.