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The 2019 Persian Gulf crisis is an escalation of military tensions between Iran and the United States following the deployment of military assets to the Persian Gulf by President Donald Trump due to intelligence suggesting a planned campaign by Iran and allies against US forces and interests in the Persian Gulf and Iraq. This followed a rise in political tensions between the two countries during the Presidency of Donald Trump, which included the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal, the imposition of new sanctions against Iran, and the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. In response, Iran designated the US CENTCOM as a terrorist organisation.

2019 Persian Gulf crisis
Part of Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict
B52 in al udeid base may 2019.jpg
Stena Impero 2019-07-21 02.jpg
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Shot down by Iran 4.jpg
MV Kokuka Courageous with hull damage and mine.png

(top left) A U.S. B-52H strategic bomber in Qatar, four of which were deployed to the Persian Gulf region by the U.S. on 12 May; (top right) A NEDSA boat patrolling around Stena Impero ship; (bottom left) Remnants of the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone shot down by Iran; (bottom right) MV Kokuka Courageous ship with damage and alleged unexploded mine
Date5 May 2019 – present
(5 months, 2 weeks and 3 days)
Location
Status

Ongoing

Belligerents
 United States
 Saudi Arabia[1]
 United Arab Emirates[2]
 Australia[3]
 Bahrain[4]

Supported by:
 United Kingdom
 Israel[5][6][7]
 Pakistan[8]
 Egypt[9][10]
 Kuwait[11][12]
 Qatar[13]

 Iran

Supported by:
 Russia[14][15][failed verification]
 China[15][16]
 Syria[17][18][19]
Strength

United States United States: 122,500 troops
12 F-22 Raptors
4 B52 bombers
1 carrier strike group
9 Coastal Patrol Craft
4 Minesweepers
1 amphibious ready group

United Kingdom United Kingdom: Unknown amount of troops
2 frigates
1 destroyer
4 minehunters
1 landing ship
1 fast fleet tanker
1 Mil Mi-17
some Fast attack craft
1 3rd Khordad
Casualties and losses

United States United States:

  • 1 RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone downed
  • 1 sailor dead[20]

United Kingdom United Kingdom:

  • 1 tanker captured, released on 27 September
  • 23 crew members captured

Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia:

United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates:

  • 1 merchant ship damaged (responsibility disputed)

1 tanker captured by Gibraltar, released on 15 August
1-2 drones downed (US claim, denied by Iran)

1 tanker damaged (responsibility undetermined)

1 crew member wounded
 Norway: 2 merchant ships damaged (responsibility disputed)
 Japan: 1 merchant ship damaged (responsibility disputed)  Iraq: 1 merchant ship seized by Iran, allegedly it was "smuggling fuel for some Arab countries"  Philippines 1 Small Vessel Seized, 7 crew members captured

[21]

Sometime after this deployment, several merchant ships in the Persian Gulf were damaged in two incidents in May and June 2019. Western nations blamed Iran, while Iran denied involvement.

Iran shot down an American RQ-4A surveillance drone, nearly resulting in an armed confrontation.

An Iranian oil tanker was seized by Britain in the Strait of Gibraltar on the grounds that it was shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran later captured a British oil tanker and its crew members in the Persian Gulf, the UK responded by joining US forces in the gulf.[22][23][24] Both Iran and UK later released the ships.[25][26][27][28][29][30]

The United States created the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) which "increases overall surveillance and security in key waterways in the Middle East", according to the Deputy Secretary of Defense Michael Mulroy.[31]

BackgroundEdit

On 8 May 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, reinstating sanctions against Iran.[32] Iran's oil production has hit a historic low as a result of sanctions.[33] According to the BBC, United States sanctions against Iran "have led to a sharp downturn in Iran's economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors, and triggering protests."[34] Iranian officials have accused the United States of waging hybrid warfare against Iran.[35][36]

Tensions between Iran and the United States escalated in May 2019, with the U.S. deploying more military assets to the Persian Gulf region after receiving intelligence reports of an alleged "campaign" by Iran and its "proxies" to threaten U.S. forces and Strait of Hormuz oil shipping. American officials pointed to threats against commercial shipping and potential attacks by militias with Iranian ties on American troops in Iraq while also citing intelligence reports that included photographs of missiles on dhows and other small boats in the Persian Gulf, supposedly put there by Iranian paramilitary forces. The United States feared they could be fired at its Navy.[37][38][39]

On 5 May, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton announced that the U.S. was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and four B-52 bombers to the Middle East to "send a clear and unmistakable message" to Iran following Israeli intelligence reports of an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. forces in the region. Bolton said, "The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack."[40][41] The deployed USS Abraham Lincoln is in the Arabian Sea, outside the Persian Gulf.[42]

On 7 May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise midnight visit to Baghdad after canceling a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pompeo told Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi that they had a responsibility to protect Americans in Iraq. On 8 May, an advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei stated Iran was confident the U.S. was both unwilling and unable to start a war with Iran. On the same day, Iran announced that it would reduce its commitment to the JCPOA nuclear deal, which the U.S. pulled out of in May 2018. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani set a 60-day deadline for the EU and world powers to rescue the current deal before it resumed higher uranium enrichment. The United States Air Forces Central Command announced that F-15C Eagle fighter jets were repositioned within the region to "defend U.S. forces and interests in the region."[43] On 10 May, the U.S. deployed the Marine transport ship USS Arlington and a Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) battery to the Middle East. The Pentagon said the buildup was in response to "heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations."[44]

TimelineEdit

May 2019 Gulf of Oman incident and further rise in tensionsEdit

On 12 May, four commercial ships, including two Saudi Aramco oil tankers, were damaged near the port of Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman.[45] The United Arab Emirates claimed the incident was a "sabotage attack", while a United States assessment reportedly blamed Iran or Iranian "proxy" elements for the attack.[46] On 13 May, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad said that U.S. citizens should not travel to Iraq and for those who were already there to keep a low profile. On the same day, the New York Times reported that Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented a military plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks American forces or makes steps toward developing nuclear weapons. U.S. President Donald Trump later discredited this, saying that he would instead "send a hell of a lot more" than 120,000 troops if necessary.[47]

On 14 May, both Iranian and U.S. officials said they were not seeking war, even as threats and counter-threats continued. Ayatollah Khamenei downplayed the escalation, saying in comments carried on state television that "no war is going to happen," while Mike Pompeo said while on a visit to Russia, "We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran." On the same day, Houthi rebels in Yemen carried out multiple drone attacks on a Saudi oil pipeline deep in Saudi territory. The U.S. stated that it believed Iran sponsored the attack, though it was unclear if the attack was particularly related to the Iran-U.S. tensions or related to the Yemeni Civil War that began in 2015 and the Saudi Arabian-led intervention there.[48] On 15 May, the U.S. State Department announced that all non-emergency staff had been ordered to leave the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.[49]

On 19 May, U.S. President Trump warned that in the event of a conflict, it would be "the official end of Iran."[50] Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded that Trump's "genocidal taunts" would not "end Iran".[51] On the same day, a rocket exploded inside the heavily fortified Green Zone sector of Baghdad, landing less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy.[52] On 24 May, the U.S. deployed 1,500 additional troops to the Persian Gulf region as a "protective" measure against Iran. The deployment included reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets and engineers; 600 of the troops were given extended deployments, meaning 900 would be fresh troops.[53][53] U.S. Navy vice admiral and Director of the Joint Staff Michael Gilday said the U.S. had a high degree of confidence that Iran's Revolutionary Guard was responsible for the 12 May explosions on four tankers and that it was Iranian proxies in Iraq that fired rockets into Baghdad's Green Zone.[54]

On 20 May, President Trump said: "We have no indication that anything's happened or will happen" in Iran.[55] On 25 May, Trump, declaring that ongoing tensions with Iran amounted to a national emergency, invoked a rarely used legal loophole to approve the sale of $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Weapons would also reportedly be sold to the UAE and Jordan.[56] On 28 May, the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran was abiding by the main terms of the JCPOA, although questions were raised on how many advanced centrifuges Iran was allowed to have, as that was only loosely defined in the deal.[57]

June 2019Edit

On 1 June, President Hassan Rouhani suggested that Iran would be willing to hold talks but asserted that it would not be pressured by sanctions and American military posturing. On 2 June, Mike Pompeo stated that the U.S. was ready for unconditional discussions with Iran on its nuclear program, but affirmed that it will not relent on pressuring Iran until it starts behaving like a "normal country". "We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no pre-conditions. We are ready to sit down," Pompeo said, while also stating that President Trump had always been willing to seek dialogue with Iranian leadership. Iran's foreign ministry responded stating, "The Islamic Republic of Iran does not pay attention to word-play and expression of hidden agenda in new forms. What matters is the change of U.S. general approach and actual behavior toward the Iranian nation," which it said needed "reform".[58] The softening dialogue came amid U.S. military exercises in the Arabian Sea, which saw various aircraft "simulating strike operations"; Yahya Rahim Safavi, top military aide to Ayatollah Khameini, said that U.S. military vessels in the Persian Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles and warned that any clash between the two countries would push oil prices above $100 a barrel.[59]

 
U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman blamed Iran for tanker attacks

On 6 June, the Houthis in Yemen, which are involved in a conflict with a US-backed, Saudi Arabian-led intervention there, shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) drone. The US military claimed the attack was performed with Iranian assistance.[60] U.S. Central Command commander Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. warned that Iran and its "proxy" forces still posed an "imminent" threat to U.S. forces: "I think we're still in the period of what I would call tactical warning...The threat is very real."[61]

Also on 6 June, the UAE, supported by Norway and Saudi Arabia, told the United Nations Security Council that the 12 May attacks had the marks of a "sophisticated and coordinated operation," and were most likely performed by a "state actor". Video of the damage to the tankers Amjad, Al Marzoqah, A Michel and Andrea Victory was released to broadcasters.[62][63]

June 2019 Gulf of Oman incidentEdit

On 17 June, the U.S. announced the deployment of 1,000 more soldiers to the Middle East after a second incident in the Gulf of Oman that saw two oil tankers catch fire after allegedly being attacked by limpet mines or flying objects. As in the May incident, the U.S. blamed Iranian forces for the attacks.[64]

June 2019 Iranian shoot-down of U.S. droneEdit

 
USS Boxer seen here off the coast of Australia, was deployed to the Persian Gulf in June 2019 as a result of increased tensions between US and Iran.[65]

Tensions reached a new high when, on 20 June, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone, saying that the drone violated Iranian airspace. IRGC commander Hossein Salami called the shoot-down a "clear message" to the U.S. while also warning that, though they were not seeking war, Iran was "completely ready" for it. U.S. Central Command later confirmed that the drone was shot down by Iranian surface-to-air missiles but denied that it violated Iranian airspace, calling it an "unprovoked attack" and in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.[66] Iran and the United States provided conflicting GPS coordinates for the drone's location, making it unclear whether the drone was within Iran's 12-mile territorial boundary.[67] President Trump called Iran's downing of the drone a "big mistake".[68] The United States requested a June 24 closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting to address the regional tensions with Iran, according to diplomats.[69]

Media outlets such as The New York Times and ABC News reported that Trump had ordered a retaliatory military strike on Iran on 20 June, but withdrew his decision minutes before the operation began. Reportedly, aircraft were already in the air en route to their targets and warships were in position when the attack was called off.[70] Trump said the next day that he had decided to halt the operation after being told that as many as 150 Iranians would be killed, although some administration officials said Trump had been advised of the potential casualties before he ordered the operation to be prepared.[71] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton reportedly objected to the reversal.[72][73]

On June 22, it was reported that President Trump had approved cyber attacks that disabled IRGC computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches the night of the drone-downing. The cyber strikes were handled by U.S. Cyber Command in conjunction with U.S. Central Command. It represented the first offensive show of force since Cyber Command was elevated to a full combatant command in May 2018. Also on June 22, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to U.S. industries that Iran is stepping up cyber attacks of critical industries — particularly oil, gas and other energy sectors — and government agencies, and has the potential to disrupt or destroy systems.[74]

On June 23, Iranian Major General Gholam Ali Rashid warned the U.S. of "uncontrollable" consequences should a conflict breakout. During a speech in Israel, John Bolton said Iran should not "mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness," emphasizing that future military options are not ruled out and that Trump had only "stopped the strike from going forward at this time".[75][76] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the Persian Gulf region for talks with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in a bid to build a coalition to combat perceived Iranian nuclear and "terror" ambitions. Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States' "interventionist military presence" for the high tensions.[77]

On June 24, Trump announced new sanctions against the Iranian and IRGC leadership, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his office.[78][79] U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions will block "billions" in assets and that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would also be sanctioned within the week.[80]

In classified briefings, Mike Pompeo and other U.S. State Department and Pentagon officials reportedly advised members of the U.S. Congress on what they described as alarming ties between Iran and al-Qaeda — including giving the terrorist organization safe haven in the country. The New York Times reported that lawmakers were leery of assertions of Iranian links to al-Qaeda, notably due to concerns that the administration may be using specious assertions to build a case for military action against Iran based on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists — supposed links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were used as partial justification to invade Iraq in 2003.[81][82] On June 27, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Mulroy flatly denied that Pentagon officials linked al-Qaeda to Iran during Congressional meetings. "In these briefings, none of the officials mentioned al-Qa'ida or the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force," Mulroy stated, adding that he and the Defense Intelligence Agency instead "described the historical ties between Iran and the Taliban, and I explained that these ties are widely and publicly known and referenced in articles and books".[83] On June 24, Trump told reporters that he did not need congressional consent for an initial strike on Iran.[84]

On June 25, Iran said that the new U.S. sanctions prompted a "permanent closure" of their diplomatic ties, and the regime refused to negotiate with Washington until the sanctions were lifted.[85] On June 27, Javad Zarif tweeted that sanctions are not an "alternative to war; they ARE war" and argued that Trump's usage of the term "obliteration" against Iran is a reference to genocide, a war crime. He also said that negotiations and threats are "mutually exclusive" and called the concept of a short war with Iran an "illusion".[86]

Following the drone shoot-down, the U.S. continued unabated to deploy military assets to the region. By June 28, the U.S. had deployed nearly a dozen F-22 Raptor fighter jets to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar – the first ever deployment of F-22s to the base – to "defend American forces and interests".[87]

July 2019Edit

Alleged American downing of Iranian dronesEdit

External video
  Video captured by an IRGC drone from USS Boxer, July 18th, 2019

On July 18, according to the Pentagon, USS Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone that had closed with the ship in the Persian Gulf to approximately 1,000 yards (910 m) and jammed the drone, causing it to crash. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi denied any of the country's drones had been brought down.[88] General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of the U.S. Central Command, subsequently claimed that USS Boxer may have downed a second Iranian drone.[89]

July 2019 tanker seizuresEdit

On July 3, Gibraltar enacted "Sanctions Regulations 2019"[90][91][92] after the March 2019 Sanctions Act,[93] referring to the EU sanctions for Syria (EU No. 36/2012).[94] It also specified the Panama-flagged Iranian tanker Grace 1 as a ship under those regulations.[95] On July 4, the ship was seized by British authorities while carrying out an off-port limited logistics stop in Gibraltar, on suspicion that the vessel was carrying oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. A force of 30 Royal Marines boarded the ship from a helicopter and speedboat, accompanied by Royal Gibraltar Police officers and HM Customs Gibraltar officers.[96] Four of the ship's crew, including the captain and chief officer, were arrested but subsequently released on bail without charge.[97] Iran demanded the ship's release and denied that the vessel was violating sanctions, and an official of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a threat to seize a British ship in retaliation.[98][99] Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei described the incident as a British act of "piracy" which has been given a "legal appearance".[100] Britain offered to release the ship in exchange for an Iranian guarantee that it would not proceed to the Syrian port of Baniyas to deliver oil to the refinery there. On July 11, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose foiled an Iranian attempt to capture the BP-owned British oil tanker British Heritage, as it transited through the Strait of Hormuz. Three boats believed to be from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps approached the tanker and tried to halt it, after which HMS Montrose, which had been shadowing the tanker, moved between the boats and the tanker and trained guns on the boats, warning them to back off. The Iranian boats then turned away.[101][102] The Royal Navy subsequently deployed the destroyer HMS Duncan to the Persian Gulf to reinforce HMS Montrose.[103]

On July 14, a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker, MT Riah, which was operating in the United Arab Emirates, disappeared from ship tracking maps near Iran after crossing the Strait of Hormuz.[100] Adding to the mystery, no entity claimed ownership of the tanker.[104]

 
British-flagged tanker Stena Impero

On July 20, the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was seized in a raid by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces. Four small boats and a helicopter stopped the ship and Iranian commandos rappelled on board from the helicopter. The ship was taken to Bandar Abbas and its crew of 23 detained on board. On September 4, Iran decided to free only seven crew members of the detained British tanker.[105] A second British-owned and Liberian-flagged ship was also seized but later allowed to continue its journey.[106][107][108] In a letter to the UN, Iran stated that the Stena Impero had collided with and damaged an Iranian vessel, and ignored warnings by Iranian authorities.[109][110]

The ship's seizure sparked a diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and Iran. The British government condemned the seizure of the ship and demanded its release, warning of "serious consequences" if the tanker was not released.[111] Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi visited Iran to negotiate the release of Stena Impero at the request of the British government. Iran confirmed that it seized the ship as retaliation over the British seizure of Grace 1 in Gibraltar and hinted that it would be willing to release Stena Impero in exchange for the release of Grace 1.[112]

On July 31, the United States sanctioned the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, making a diplomatic solution even less likely.[113]

August 2019 seizure of Iraqi tankerEdit

On August 4, 2019 the Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized an Iraqi Tanker for it allegedly smuggling oil to other Arab Countries. The 7 crew members on board were detained further heightening tensions in the gulf. It was just days later that Britain and Israel joined the Sentinel Program to protect oil tankers in the gulf.

On August 15, Gibraltar released Grace 1[95] after receiving assurances the oil would not be sold to an EU sanctioned entity,[114][115] and after rejecting a request from the United States Department of Justice to seize the ship.[116] The Iranian government later stated that it had issued no assurances that the oil would not be delivered to Syria and reasserted its intention to continue supplying oil to the Arab nation.[117][118][119][120] On August 16, the Department of Justice issued a warrant in Washington, DC to seize Grace 1, the cargo of oil, and $995,000 on the grounds that the profit from the ship's voyage was intended to enrich the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US had previously designated a terrorist organization.[121] On August 18, Gibraltar announced that its Justice Ministry had rejected the US warrant, as U.S. sanctions against Iran did not apply in the European Union, and the ship, renamed Adrian Darya 1 and registered under the Iranian flag, was expected to sail imminently from Gibraltar.[122][123]

After releasing the ship, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the tanker and its captain and inputted them in the blacklist.[124] Some days later, Brian Hook, the State Department point man on Iran, sent emails to the Indian captain of the ship and offered some million dollars in US cash to steer the Adrian Darya 1 to a country where it could be seized by United States Armed Forces; but he rejected these offers.[125]

September 2019Edit

On September 3, Iran announced that the oil tanker has delivered its cargo, defying the US threats. Satellite imagery had showed the tanker near Syria.[126] On September 9, Britain's foreign minister accused Iran of selling the oil that was carried in Adrian Darya to Assad's regime.[127] Iran stated the oil had been sold to a private company which is not an EU sanctioned entity, so its assurance to Gibraltar had not been breeched.[128][115]

On September 14, the 2019 Abqaiq–Khurais attack took place - a coordinated Cruise missile and drone attack that targeted the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia. The Houthi movement in Yemen claimed responsibility, tying it to events surrounding the Saudi Arabian intervention in the Yemeni Civil War. However, claims made by some United States officials that the attacks originated in Iran, despite Iran's denial, have strained the current Persian Gulf crisis.[129]

On September 16, 2019, Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized another vessel near the Iran's Greater Tunb island in the Persian Gulf. It was reported that the vessel was allegedly smuggling 250,000 litres of diesel fuel to the United Arab Emirates.[130]

On September 27, 2019, the British oil tanker Stena Impero departed from Iranian waters after around two months in Iranian detention.[25][26][27] The remainder of the ship's 23 crew members who were detained in Iran were released as well,[28][29] with seven crew members already released on September 4.[30] On September 28, Stena Impero, which was also able to transmit signals,[27] docked at Port Rashid, Dubai.[131] The same day, HMS Duncan returned to her homeport, Portsmouth naval base.[132]

On September 23, 2019, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized the new US-led coalition patrolling the region's waterways, and asked the western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf.[133]

International Maritime Security ConstructEdit

The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), formerly known as Operation Sentinel or the Sentinel Program, is a multinational maritime effort established by the United States to ensure gulf security following Iranian seizures of commercial tankers.

Following Iran's shoot-down of a U.S. surveillance drone on 20 June 2019, the U.S. bolstered its efforts to establish a coalition to deter Iranian attacks in the Persian Gulf.[134] On 19 July, U.S. Central Command acknowledged what it called Operation Sentinel which had the stated goal of de-escalating tensions and promoting maritime stability in international waters "throughout the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman." Sentinel called for participating nations to provide escorts to their flagged commercial vessels in the region and for coordinating surveillance capabilities.[135] U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper later commented on the nature of the operation, stating "My view is ... we would want to prevent the Iranians seizing or stopping a ship, certainly, for any arbitrary reason whatsoever".[136] Some U.S. allies, particularly European allies, were reportedly reticent towards the Sentinel Program due to qualms associated with signing on to a U.S.-led naval effort that could potentially drag them into a confrontation with Iran; this was coupled with reports of a potential European-led naval security effort separate from the U.S. By September, the U.S. had "rebranded" Operation Sentinel as the "International Maritime Security Construct," reportedly to attract more participation.[137]

In early August 2019, the United Kingdom agreed to join the United States in its maritime program, abandoning the idea of a European-led naval protection force.[138] On 6 August, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz reportedly stated that Israel would participate in the U.S.'s coalition, providing intelligence and other unspecified assistance.[139] On 21 August, Australia announced it would join the U.S.-led naval coalition, with plans to deploy a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft to the Middle East for one month before the end of 2019, a frigate in January 2020 for six months, and Australian Defence Forces personnel to the IMSC headquarters in Bahrain.[140]

On 16 September, IMSC members held a Main Planning Conference aboard RFA Cardigan Bay along with representatives from 25 additional countries where they reaffirmed commitments to the operation and discussed their efforts to enhance maritime security throughout key waterways in the region.[141] Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on 18 September and the United Arab Emirates joined on 20 September.[142][143] Japan announced on 18 October that it would not join the IMSC but would instead send its own separate Naval assets to the region to guard merchant vessels "related to Japan" while still closely cooperating with the U.S. A senior Japanese official said that the contingency would likely include warships and aircraft that will patrol the Gulf of Oman, the Northern Arabian Sea and other regional waters.[144]

Contributing countriesEdit

  •   United States (Leader)
  •   Bahrain (Headquarters)
  •   United Kingdom[138]
  •   Australia[140]
  •   Saudi Arabia
  •   United Arab Emirates
  •   Israel (Intelligence assistance)[139]

ReactionsEdit

NationalEdit

  •   China - Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said regarding the ongoing situation between the United States and Iran, "China resolutely opposes the U.S. implementation of unilateral sanctions and so-called 'long arm jurisdiction', understands the current situation and concerns of the Iranian side, and supports the Iranian side to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests."[145]
  •   Russia - Sergei Lavrov questioned American claims about the shoot down of an Iranian drone, saying the evidence was vague, and saying the US had no "intelligent data" to prove the drone was Iranian.[14]
  •   United Arab Emirates - Emirati officials met with their Iranian counter-parts including Iran's border police force and its head General Qasem Rezaee to discuss naval traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. According to Iranian state run media, after the meeting the head of the UAE's coast guard was quoted as saying "the intervention of some governments on the front lines of navigations is causing problems in a region that has good relations," while adding "we need to establish security in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman."[146]
  •   Oman - The Omani Foreign Ministry released a statement calling upon Iran to release the British oil tanker Stena Impero, which was captured by Iran in response to the British capture of an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar. The ministry also called upon Iran and the United Kingdom to resolve the dispute with diplomacy.[147]
  •   France - French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said regarding the nation's stance on tensions between the United States and Iran, that France does not need American approval to negotiate with Iran, and criticized Trump's approach on the tensions alongside other French diplomats calling it "Twitter Diplomacy".[148]
  •   United States - In response to Gibraltar released the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 which was suspected to be headed towards Syria with Iranian oil, the United States has threatened to issue sanctions anyone who has dealings with Grace 1, the US government also expressed disappointment with the United Kingdom for allowing the ship to be released.[149]
  •   Saudi Arabia - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said: "We do not want a war in the region ... But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests."[150]
  •   Pakistan - Foreign Office strongly condemn the drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, and reiterated its full support and solidarity to Saudi Arabia against any threat to its security and territorial integrity. Such acts to sabotage and disrupt commercial activities causing fear and terror cannot be condoned we hopes that such attacks will not be repeated given the potential damage they can cause to the existing peaceful environment in the region.[151] On 17 September Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan phones Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman condemns attack on oil facilities, during the conversation with MBS vowed to full support and solidarity with the brotherly country Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any terrorist attack and reiterated that Pakistan will stand with Saudi Arabia in case of any threat to sanctity or security of Harmain Shareefain.[152]
  •   India - On 26 September 2019, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Iran's president Hassan Rouhani at the UN general assembly in New York City, the Indian government stated about the meeting that Modi had, “reiterated India's support for giving priority to diplomacy, dialogue and confidence-building in the interest of maintaining peace, security and stability in the Gulf region.”[153]

OtherEdit

  • Mullah Krekar, the former leader of the Iraq-based insurgent group Ansar al-Islam stated that in a war between the United States and Iran, should the crisis evolve into one that he would support Iran in the war, stating it would be similar to supporting Hezbollah in a war against Israel.[154]
  • Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric and leader of Peace Companies, in response to the ongoing tensions posted on Twitter, "War between Iran and the U.S. will be an end of Iraq," and in another instance said, "Any party that would drag Iraq into the war and turn it into a scene for conflict will be an enemy to the Iraqi people," and further stated his view of excluding Iraq from a potential war between the United States and Iran saying, "I'm against dragging Iraq into this war and making it a scene for the Iranian-U.S. conflict"[155]
  •   Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - In ISIL's weekly online newspaper al-Naba the group's stance on the tensions between the United States and Iran was published, the group stated that it equally opposes both sides and criticized al-Qaeda for its alleged reliance on Iran and stated had it not been for al-Qaeda's past orders not to attack Iran while ISIL was part of al-Qaeda it would have attacked Iran earlier, and that ISIL would carry out attacks against the United States and Iran equally, the article ended with a supplication asking God to incite a war between Iran and the United States so that it could bring victory for ISIL.[156]
  •   Gibraltar - Gibraltar refused US requests to hold an Iranian oil tanker stating it would contradict the law of the European Union, In a statement the government said, "The EU sanctions regime against Iran - which is applicable in Gibraltar - is much narrower than that applicable in the US," adding "The Gibraltar Central Authority is unable seek an Order of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to provide the restraining assistance required by the United States of America."[157][158]
  •   Syrian National Coalition - On 21 September 2019, the Syrian National Coalition which represents the Syrian Opposition and Syrian Interim Government released a statement after the Abqaiq–Khurais attack saying: "The Syrian National Coalition once again warns of the dangers of the inaction towards Iran's actions in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen and the wars it manages in the region directly or indirectly as well as its latest aggression against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." Adding "The coalition reaffirms it will continue to stand by the leadership and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its fight against terrorism as it extends its thanks and appreciation for the Kingdom's efforts and positions in support of the rights of the Syrian people and their legitimate demands."[159]
  •   al-Qaeda - 11 September 2019, on the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, al-Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a video commemorating the attacks claimed that America had empowered Iran and that the two work together, saying, "It is ironic that Shi’a militias were fighting in Iraq against the self-proclaimed Caliph, [Islamic State leader] Ibrahim al-Badri, with American air and artillery cover, and under the leadership and planning of American advisors. From the battlefield..." adding "The point is that Iran has an understanding with the Americans in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It only differs with them on the returns of this arrangement. At times it signs accords with them; when it is unsuitable for them, it continues its policy of blackmail."[160]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit