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US-led maritime coalition begins mission to protect Gulf waters

Warship belonging to British Navy, allegedly sent to the Strait of Hormuz is seen passing through the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey on July 12, 2019. [Mehmet Eser/Anadolu Agency]

A US-led naval coalition yesterday officially launched a mission from its base in Bahrain to protect shipping in the Gulf region following a series of attacks on ships and oil tankers.

The operation, dubbed Sentinel, will provide escorts to commercial vessels passing through the Gulf waters, the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of ​​Oman and the Bab El-Mandab Strait in the Red Sea.

Commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Admiral Jim Malloy said during the launching ceremony that “while Sentinel’s operational design is threat-based, it does not threaten”.

“The command centre in Bahrain will be a central hub to enable coordination of the information gathered from our navies and partners in industry to create a shared operating picture. This will then inform naval operations, directed from this headquarters,” he added.

READ: Saudi Arabia joins International Alliance for Protection of Maritime Navigation

“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,” Malloy said.

The United States has been working to form the coalition for some time now. However, many countries especially Europeans, are worried that the mission would drag the region into an open conflict.

Bahrain, the headquarters of the US 5th Fleet, was the first to join the coalition in August, followed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in mid-September.

The United States and Western countries have accused Iran of launching attacks on oil tankers and ships in Gulf waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz since May. However, Tehran has repeatedly denied the accusations.

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