President Trump on Twitter Monday questioned whether the U.S. should continue protecting non-U.S. ships in or near the Strait of Hormuz.
The United States is seeking international partners to form a coalition for increased maritime security in the Persian Gulf, Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said Monday.
Hook, who already had met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, said one option for improving safety would be to “enhance” the Combined Maritime Force (CMF), a 33-nation naval partnership that covers about 3.2 million square miles of international waters. The Combined Task Force 150, with a mission to disrupt terroristic organizations and related activities, covers waters that include the Gulf of Oman, the area in which six tankers have been attacked since the beginning of May, and the Strait of Hormuz.
“There also could be new initiatives pulling together a number of nations, allied nations who have equities in freedom of navigation so that we can increase maritime security,” Hook said. “So, in my conversations here, there’s a lot of interest in finding a new initiative to enhance maritime security. It’s something which we think needs to be internationalized.”
On Monday, the same day the Trump administration announced new sanctions against Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also met with Saudi King Salman bin Adbulaziz Al Saud and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He discussed “the need to promote maritime security” and “the need to promote freedom of navigation” in the Strait of Hormuz with the leaders during the separate meetings, Pompeo said on Twitter.
“Freedom of navigation is paramount,” he tweeted.
The Trump administration’s plan for maritime security in the Persian Gulf would involve the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and another 20 countries, Pompeo was reportedly heard telling the crown prince, according to the Associated Press. The plan would rely on regional allies “to participate” with their “military folks,” Pompeo told the crown prince, AP reported.
A new program called Sentinel would have ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz be provided with cameras and other monitoring devices, The Washington Post reported. Some ships also would be escorted by other vessels, according to the article, but it was not clear if the U.S. would provide escort ships or how many.
The Washington Post also reported the Saudis were the first to sign on to the plan and America “intends to seek material and financial contributions from other allies in the coming weeks.”
Hook said discussions could continue at the G20 Osaka Summit later this week.
“Many of those nations who have equities here in freedom of navigation will be present, and Secretary Pompeo will be there, and that will be a good forum to discuss that,” Hook said.
President Trump questioned on Twitter whether America should continue to protect non-U.S. ships in or near the Strait of Hormuz.
“China gets 91% of its Oil from the Straight [sic], Japan 62%, & many other countries likewise. So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation,” he tweeted Monday. “All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey.”
The Desh Vishal, an oil tanker owned by the state-run Shipping Corporation of India, became the first Indian-flagged crude oil carrier to allow Indian navy personnel to board the ship as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, according to The Hindu Business Line. A meeting on Friday between the Indian navy, the Indian Nation Shipowners’ Association and the Director General of Shipping determined Indian-flagged ships carrying crude oil in the region could make use of escort from the Indian navy with one officer and two sailors. The personnel boarded and disembarked the Desh Vishal Saturday, according to the report.
The British navy also planned to deploy 100 Royal Marines to protect British ships in the Gulf, according to The Sunday Times.
The U.S., United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates released a joint statement Monday condemning the attacks on the oil tankers, which the U.S. has blamed on Iran.
“These attacks threaten the international waterways that we all rely on for shipping. Ships and their crews must be allowed to pass through international waters safely,”the statement said.