Opinion

Maritime coalition launched to protect Gulf shipping after Iran attacks

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The operational center of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) following its opening at the US 5th Fleet Command in Bahrain. (AFP)
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Newly appointed commander of Operation SENTINEL, US Navy Rear Admiral, Alvin Holsey (L) Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (C) and US Navy Vice Admiral, James J. Malloy, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the US 5th Fleet, at the operations centre of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC. (AFP)
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Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) and US Navy Vice Admiral, James J. Malloy (C), Commander of US Naval Forces Central Command and the US 5th Fleet, are pictured at the operations center of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Maritime coalition launched to protect Gulf shipping after Iran attacks

  • Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Australia and Britain have all joined the International Maritime Security Construct
  • Vessels will be escorted through the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic chokepoint at the head of the Gulf

MANAMA: A US-led naval coalition officially launched operations in Bahrain Thursday to protect shipping in the Arabian Gulf, after a string of attacks that Washington and its allies blamed on Iran.
The coalition, aimed at warding off the perceived threat to the world’s oil supply, has been in the making since June.
Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, joined the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) in August. Saudi Arabia and the UAE followed suit in September.
Australia and Britain are the main Western countries to have agreed to send warships to escort Gulf shipping. The newest member, Albania, joined on Friday.
Vessels will be escorted through the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic chokepoint at the head of the Gulf and the main artery for the transport of Middle East oil.
Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of US Naval Forces in the Middle East, said Operation Sentinel is a defensive measure aimed at protecting Gulf waters.
“While Sentinel’s operational design is threat-based, it does not threaten,” he said during a ceremony at the IMSC’s command center.
“We employ capable warships on patrol, but there is no offensive line of effort in this construct, other than a commitment to defend each other if attacked.
“Our commitment to the region isn’t short-lived, it is enduring, and we will operate as part of Sentinel for as long as it’s needed — as long as the threat looms.”
Most European governments have declined to participate in the naval coalition, fearful of undermining their efforts to save a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which was badly weakened by Washington’s withdrawal last year.
Animosity between Tehran and Washington has soared since President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal and reimposed crippling US sanctions.

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On May 12, the UAE said four commercial oil tankers — two Saudi, one Emirati and one Norwegian — had been targeted by “acts of sabotage” in waters off its coast.
Washington and Riyadh blamed Tehran, which denied involvement.
A month later, the Kokuka Courageous was hit and around the same time another tanker in the area, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair, was damaged by three explosions, according to the Norwegian Maritime Authority.
They were transiting through the Strait of Hormuz toward the Indian Ocean.
Then on September 14, drone strikes targeted two key Saudi oil facilities onshore, causing catastrophic damage and temporarily knocking out half of the kingdom’s oil production.
The attacks were claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels who are battling a Saudi-led coalition, but Washington and Riyadh blamed Iran, saying the strikes were carried out with advanced missiles and drones.


Erdogan: Turkey ready to send troops to back Libya's Tripoli government

Updated 21 min 10 sec ago

Erdogan: Turkey ready to send troops to back Libya's Tripoli government

  • Military deal has been presented to Turkey’s parliament for approval
  • Ankara and Tripoli signed an expanded security and military accord late last month

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he was ready to send troops to Libya if requested by the government in Tripoli.
"On the issue of sending soldiers... If Libya makes such a request from us, we can send our personnel there, especially after striking the military security agreement," he said in a televised appearance, referring to a deal signed last month with Libya's Government of National Accord, led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.

Late on Saturday when a bilateral deal that provides for a quick reaction force if requested by Tripoli was sent to the Turkish parliament.
Ankara’s latest move raises tensions in the Mediterranean region and risks confrontation with forces led by Khalifa Haftar based in eastern Libya, where rival political factions have been based since 2014.
Late last month, Ankara and Tripoli signed an expanded security and military accord and, separately, a memorandum on maritime boundaries that Greece said violates international law.
While the maritime accord has been sent to the United Nations for approval, the military deal has been presented to Turkey’s parliament. “Parliament will enter it into force after approval,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday.
It was unclear when a vote would take place in the parliament controlled by Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) and its nationalist MHP allies.
On Thursday, Haftar urged his forces to advance toward the center of Tripoli in what he said would be a “final battle,” after an offensive against the government that began in April but has stalled outside the capital.
Athens, which expelled the Libyan ambassador over the maritime boundary pact, has condemned the maritime accord and warned that Ankara is escalating tensions in the region.
“Turkey must choose if it will follow the road of self-isolation, continuing to play the role of trouble-maker in the region, or behaving like a good neighbor henceforth,” Greece’s deputy foreign minister, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, told Sunday’s Ethnos newspaper.
Greece has also condemned new Turkish gas exploration off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus.
On Sunday, Israel’s energy ministry told Reuters that a Turkish vessel had asked one of its research ships to leave an area where it was “legally located in Cyprus’s commercial waters.” Israeli and Turkish media said Turkey’s navy escorted the ship away in the incident, which ocurred two weeks ago.
According to the text of the military agreement sent to Turkish lawmakers, Tripoli could request vehicles, equipment and weapons for use in army, navy and air operations. It also provisions for new intelligence sharing.
Utku Cakirozer, lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition CHP and a member of the NATO parliamentary assembly, said it was “worrying” that Erdogan raised the prospect of sending troops and taking sides in the Libyan conflict.
“Turkey should not enter into a new adventure,” he told Reuters. “The AKP government should immediately stop being a party to the war in Libya.”