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Marines are training to provide security for commercial ships in Middle East

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USS Bataan and US Carter Hall in Middle East

The United States military has begun training Marines to serve as security teams for commercial ships in the Middle East, according to a new report. 

USNI News first reported on the new training on Friday, Aug. 11, following up on news earlier this month that the Pentagon was considering putting Marines and U.S. Navy personnel on oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz to deter potential harassment or seizure attempts by Iran. 

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the most important routes for oil transit in the world, with approximately 20% of the world’s oil supply passing through it. The strait links the Persian Gulf – where the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – with the Gulf of Oman and the wider ocean. 

According to USNI News, the Marines are currently training for potential deployments onto commercial ships, with teams of 15-19 service members aboard each vessel for security. 

The three-ship Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed to the Middle East in July, arriving in Bahrain a week ago.

Related: The Marines’ new drone-truck can take out enemy ships from 1,000 miles out

As of press time, the Pentagon has not responded to Task & Purpose’s query regarding USNI News’ report. On Tuesday, before USNI News’ story was published, a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters that there was “no announcement” about the possibility of putting Marines and sailors on commercial ships. 

The United States has accused Iran of trying to repeatedly hijack oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Last month ships with the Iranian Navy tried to hijack tankers but stopped due to U.S. Navy ships being in the area. Iran has in turn accused the United States of attempted seizures in 2021. Additional maritime tensions have been ongoing, with the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and partner groups intercepting ships linked to Iran that have been carrying weapons, often bound for the civil war in Yemen.

This past week the International Maritime Security Construct – a group of Middle Eastern and European countries as well as the United States focused on security in Middle Eastern waters – issued a warning to commercial ships using the trade route to avoid Iranian waters due to the threat of attempted seizures. On Saturday, Aug. 12, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins confirmed to the Associated Press the warning was given but did not elaborate on more details. 

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group was one of several assets the military deployed to the Middle East this summer. Earlier this summer the Pentagon announced new U.S. Navy and Air Force deployments to the region, bringing additional F-16 and F-35 fighter jets to the area as well as more ships including the destroyer the USS Thomas Hudner. 

This article by Nicholas Slayton was originally published by Task & Purpose.

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