Australia to join U.S.-led security mission in Gulf region

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-22 19:07:13|Editor: huaxia
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Iranian soldiers patrol the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran, April 30, 2019. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)

The "modest, meaningful and time-limited" contribution was in Australia's national and economic interests, the prime minister claimed.

SYDNEY, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Australia will join a U.S.-led security mission to protect shipping in the Gulf region, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.

The move will see Australia become the third U.S. ally in the coalition after Britian and the Gulf country of Bahrain earlier in August.

Morrison said that Australia would send troops, a surveillance plane and a Navy frigate to join the coalition protecting merchant vessels through key waterways including the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran.

Australia would send a P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane to the region for a month by the end of 2019, while the frigate would be deployed for six months from next January, Morrison told a press conference in Canberra. "Our contribution will be limited in scope and it will be time-bound."

He claimed that the "modest, meaningful and time-limited" contribution was in Australia's national and economic interests. At least 15 percent of crude oil and up to 30 percent of refined oil destined for Australia transits through the Gulf region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said later during the day that foreign military presence cannot prevent insecurity in the Gulf area, "while the U.S. is waging an economic war against Iran."

Tensions have been rising in the Strait of Hormuz as the United States, together with its allies, continues its maximum pressure tactic against Iran, threatening the Strait of Hormuz, one of the most important global lifelines in the fossil-fuel sector.

Zarif told the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that Tehran might act "unpredictably" in response to "unpredictable" policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The photo released on July 21, 2019 shows the British oil tanker "Stena Impero" surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran. Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) seized the British oil tanker "Stena Impero" in the Strait of Hormuz for what it called "failing to respect the international maritime rules while passing through the strait". (Morteza Akhoundi/ISNA/Handout via Xinhua)

His remarks were echoed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said on Wednesday that if Iran's "oil is completely sanctioned and Iran's oil exports are brought down to zero, international waterways can't have the same security as before."

The United States and Britain blamed Iran on months of attacks against international merchant vessels in the strait, which Iran repeatedly denied. The tension almost reached a boiling point when Iran seized a British-flagged vessel in retaliation of Britian's seizure of an Iranian ship in Gibraltar in mid July.

The Trump administration later launched the so-called escort mission, sending U.S. navy forces to the Strait of Hormuz and calling on its allies to take part in shipping protection, though European nations except Britian expressed reservations.

The Strait of Hormuz, situated between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, provides the only passage connecting the Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

Although it is only 33 km wide at its narrowest point, with the shipping lane 3 km wide in either direction, the strait is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and most important waterways for oil.