US military enhances deterrent capabilities in Gulf waters

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh


An MH-60S Sea Hawk delivers cargo during a replenishment-at-sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan March 4th. Bataan, with embarked 26th MEU, is deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations in the region. [US Marine Corps]

The US is taking seriously Iran's threats to the Gulf states and their territorial waters by strengthening the military capabilities of local naval forces and enhancing co-operation with local armies, military strategists say.

The recent training activities of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in and around Ras al-Khair, Saudi Arabia, is one such example.

The 26th MEU deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of operations in January in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden.

On February 19th, it participated in bilateral training with Royal Saudi Naval Forces in the vicinity of Ras al-Khair.


US Marines and Royal Saudi Naval Forces elements during joint training in al-Jubail region as part of the Marine Defender training exercise in late February. [US Central Command]

'Distinctive advantage'

The position of the Gulf states and the economic importance of the surrounding waterways require the implementation of certain security protocols, military strategist and retired Egyptian military officer Wael Abdul-Muttalib told Al-Mashareq.

These include the deployment of special teams trained in naval and ground combat and the use of amphibious, marine and land military technology at a high level, he said.

"This is the distinctive advantage possessed by the MEU," he said, which arrived in the Gulf region to take part in security and military operations aimed at deterring any Iranian aggression.

The 26th MEU comprises roughly 2,200 highly skilled combat soldiers, naval officers and fighter jet pilots, he added.

"In addition to the high combat skills of its men, the newly arrived unit also possesses superior military and logistical equipment, including warships, aircraft carriers, rapid intervention boats, and land and amphibious military vehicles," he said.

These enable them to move quickly and engage in land and naval interventions to deter any attempt to attack commercial or civilian vessels passing through the region's waters, he said.

The combat groups recently deployed in the Gulf region are an example of "the strategic alliance between the US, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states" for the purpose of protecting their security and stability and that of their waterways, said Saudi military expert Maj. Gen. (ret.) Mansour al-Shehri.

Another important objective is to boost military strength to secure international shipping lanes in response to the repeated Iranian attacks on oil tankers and commercial vessels, he told Al-Mashareq.

"These corridors are important not only to the Gulf States and their oil exports, as they are global corridors that connect different parts of the world and passageways for various goods and oil products," he said.

'Quick reaction force'

In addition to the unit's high military capabilities, "perhaps more important is their ability to adapt in the region thanks to recent joint training and military exercises they conducted with regional armies", he said.

The joint training exercises enhanced the capacities of the participating troops and put in place the necessary communication and tactical skills to enable all parties to respond to any emergency, he said.

The MEU is a quick reaction force ready for crisis response, al-Shehri said. "In other words, they are the tip of the spear in any deterrent military operation that may take place in the region."

Al-Shehri added that the unit's ability to move quickly is "extremely vital" given the Iranian navy's use of speed boats to carry out their attacks.

The US military's deployment of new combat groups in the Gulf "reveals the extent of the Iranian threat directed towards the region, especially since the frequency of the threats issued by IRGC officials remains high", said Fathi al-Sayed, an Iranian affairs researcher at al-Sharq Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies.

"The Iranian threat in the Gulf region has been contained so far, with the exception of violations that occurred through the use of UAVs," he said.

"However, the IRGC's history and its actions imply that this deranged group could make a move outside their borders to divert attention from the ongoing turmoil, tension and disintegration taking place inside Iran," he said.

The worsening conditions inside Iran are "a result of the IRGC's foreign policies that have devastated the Iranian economy and the future of the people as a whole", he said.

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Down with the Saud. Down with foreign infidels.