US to increase surveillance in Middle East waterways
The United States on Friday announced the US Central Command is developing a multinational maritime effort to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East.
The effort, christened as Operation Sentinel, comes a day after the US said it destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after it came within threatening range. Iran has denied that its drones have been downed.
The US Central Command said in a statement that it is developing a multinational maritime effort to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region.
The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and deescalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman, it said.
The CENTCOM said this maritime security framework will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance.
While the United States has committed to supporting this initiative, contributions and leadership from regional and international partners will be required to succeed, the CENTCOM said.
US officials continue to coordinate with allies and partners in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East on the details and capabilities required for Operation Sentinel to enable freedom of navigation in the region and protect vital shipping lanes, it said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Friday authorised the movement of US personnel and resources to Saudi Arabia.
“This movement of forces provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats,” the CENTCOM said.
“This movement creates improvement of operational depth and logistical networks. US Central Command continually assesses force posture in the region and is working with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia authorities to base US assets at the appropriate locations,” it said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope that Iran would be ready for talks with the US.
“The President said we’re prepared to negotiate with no preconditions and sit down and talk about the terror activity, the missile program, the nuclear program as well. I hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership, the ayatollah in particular, will take this opportunity to solve this in a way that is diplomatic,” he said.