Signs of escalation are increasing between the United States and Iran in the wake of Washington sending additional forces to the Red Sea in an attempt to deter Tehran, limit its behavior in the region, and disrupt international navigation, according to what the United States said, to which Iran responded by threatening to seize American ships.
Additional forces and the Iranian threat
More than 3,000 US soldiers arrived in the Red Sea aboard two warships as part of Washington’s response to the seizure of two tankers by Iran, according to what the US Navy announced, increasing the US military build-up in the tense Gulf waterways that are vital to the global oil trade, which Tehran considered prompting instability in the region.
The US military said that Iran has either seized or attempted to seize nearly 20 international-flagged vessels in the region over the past two years. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet said in a statement that the US sailors and marines entered the Red Sea on Sunday after crossing the Suez Canal in a previously announced move.
The US move comes soon after Washington announced that it would send additional F-35 and F-16 fighters, along with a warship, to the Middle East in an effort to monitor the region’s main waterways after commercial cargo ships were detained or harassed by Iran in the last few months. The US military build-up renews the possibility of a repeat of the 2019 scenario, when a series of attacks on ships took place in the strategic Gulf waters at times of tension between Washington and Tehran.
In Iran’s first reaction to the American buildup, Tehran warned that it would seize American ships in the event of any “harm” at the instigation of the United States, according to Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, spokesman for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The Fars News Agency quoted Sharif during the commemoration ceremony for Iranian Journalists’ Day as saying, “We thank God that Iran has reached a level of strength and power that we can confront every American action and harm, such as seizing ships, and responding in kind by seizing their ships.”
Dr. Mohamed Benayah, an academic researcher specializing in Iranian affairs, said in exclusive statements to the Reference that the aim of this step is to confirm the American presence in the Middle East and threaten to deter any Iranian threats.
According to Benayah, despite Washington’s assertion that it does not seek to enter into a war with Iran, and that it only wants to increase pressure on Tehran to force it to negotiate and sign a new nuclear agreement that will shape its missile program and behavior in the region, this step suggests that the United States will continue to abide by its commitments as far as providing security for the countries of the region, especially after talking about reducing the number of US forces in the region and focusing on the new Cold War with China and Russia, and the conviction of the region’s countries of Washington’s failure to deter Iran after a series of offensive operations targeting oil facilities and tankers in the Gulf.
He added that, on the other hand, Iran responded by carrying out naval military maneuvers on Abu Musa Island, in a clear message to the United States and the Gulf states of the danger of friction with Iran on stability in the region, and therefore it can be said that conducting these maneuvers reflects the continuation of Iranian policies in the Gulf.
Benayah concluded his statements by saying that, based on all of the above, the coming period will not be devoid of skirmishes between Iran and the United States, and perhaps Iranian attempts to target tankers belonging to Washington or the European Union, which threatens the return of the “tanker war”, especially after the recent Iranian provocations to the Gulf governments that recently announced the reopening of relations with Iran.