The US Department of Defense (DoD) has confirmed that the US Navy will increase the rotation of ships and aircraft patrolling the Strait of Hormuz. The decision follows Iran’s unlawful seizures of commercial vessels in the region.

The US increases its presence in the Gulf region “with the intent of bolstering our vigilance and our presence at this… maritime chokepoint,” Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder confirmed in a DoD press briefing on 15 May.

Ryder added: “These assets will include manned and unmanned aerial platforms, as well as surface naval vessels from the Navy, the Coast Guard, to help enhance our maritime surveillance.

“In fact, as I understand it, the fifth fleet over the weekend, on Sunday, posted some imagery from a P-8 Poseidon patrolling over the Strait of Hormuz with personnel from the US and various regional allies and partners.”

Photo of the US fifth fleet conducting a multilateral patrol over the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday 14 May 2023. This is the picture referred to by the DoD Press Secretary on 15 May. Credit: US Naval Forces Central Command/US fifth fleet Twitter account.

The Press Secretary also noted that there will be no additional assets deployed, only the exisiting maritime resources patrolling the region.

Ryder asserted that “the United States along with our regional partners, we’re going to continue to use the capabilities that we have to step up our presence and ensure that we are seen and that we are actively communicating, that we will work together to deter any type of aggressive behaviour.”

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The US fifth fleet remains present in Bahrain. Commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US fifth fleet and Combined maritime Forces Brad Cooper stated: “Iran’s unwarranted, irresponsible and unlawful seizure and harassment of merchant vessels must stop. US fifth fleet and our partners are committed to protecting navigational rights in these critical waters.”

According to a press release from US Naval Forces Central Command, Iran has harassed, attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged merchant vessels over the past two years. The release asserts that “[t]his pattern of destabilising behaviour is contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security.”