The head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, pledged Thursday to act actively to ensure the safety of shipping in strategic waters of the Gulf after a series of attacks by the United States to Iran.
“We are currently discussing with the international community the importance of freedom of navigation in the Middle East,” General McKenzie told reporters at Prince Sultan Air Base in Al-Kharj, near Riyadh.
“We will work very vigorously with our partners (…) to allow the free passage of oil and other products (…) in the region,” he added.
The United States plans to form an international coalition to escort merchant ships in the Gulf, said a week ago senior US military official.
“We will try with this coalition (…) to provide a naval military escort to commercial vessels” to guarantee the freedom of navigation in this strategic area for the transport of oil, had explained the general Mark Milley before a commission of the Senate which was to confirm his appointment to the position of Chief of Staff Joint US.
General Joseph Dunford, whom he has to replace, said on July 10 that Washington would determine “over the next two or three weeks” countries with “the political will to support this initiative” and then “identify the specific capabilities” this large-scale operation, which must concern the straits to the east (Ormuz) and to the west (Bab al-Mandeb) of the Arabian Peninsula.
But some European leaders have seemed reluctant to commit military means in this region where the slightest skirmish can degenerate into open conflict.
Tension around the Strait of Ormuz, through which nearly one-third of the world’s crude oil shipped by sea passes, has risen in recent weeks due to a spiral of events, including attacks of unknown tankers and the destruction of an American drone by Iran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he hoped to see more than 20 countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, working together to strengthen the security of shipping in the region.
“This is not an American problem, it is an international problem, and we look forward to being part of an international solution,” McKenzie said.
He refused to confirm CNN’s information about sending 500 US troops to Saudi Arabia.
The United States announced in May that it was deploying 1,500 additional troops in the Middle East to counter what they call Iran’s “credible threats.”
McKenzie’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes after the US House of Representatives blocked an $ 8.1 billion arms sale to the Saudi kingdom and other allies, a decision by the United States which President Donald Trump should probably veto.