US Discusses Aim of Naval Mission in Gulf

December 01: General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the US regional command CENTCOM, gave the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain an explanation of the new US-led naval mission in the seas between Iran and the Gulf Arab states.

In stressing reconnaissance and “sustainable approaches,” McKenzie on November 23 reflected Washington’s desire to reassure and involve allies, as well as its aversion to acting as global policeman.

McKenzie said the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) — the US-led alliance set up in September with Australia, Albania, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom – would protect “freedom of navigation in and around the Straits of Hormuz.”

Since IMSC was established, he argued, “surveillance” had successfully deterred Iran, which had often opted for covert actions.

McKenzie identified the “strategic maritime chokepoints” of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb and Suez as “vital national interests of the US.”

The US Navy was well-versed in cooperation with allies, he said, and had operated Combined Maritime Forces since 2002 alongside 33 countries, including missions currently led on rotation by the UK, Jordan and Kuwait.

“The United States military proudly accepts its role… We’re uniquely suited and resourced to participate in many of these efforts with allies and partners, but it’s also a great big world and there’s a lot of water to cover,” said McKenzie.

Despite the United States no longer keeping an aircraft carrier battle group in “near-constant” presence “in close proximity to the Gulf,” McKenzie noted the carrier Abraham Lincoln and its strike group, which arrived in May, was “about 120 miles north-east of here.”

Source: The Arab Weekly / Gareth Smyth

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