US sends F-16 fighter jets to protect ships from Iranian seizures in Gulf region

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is stepping up its use of fighter jets around the strategic Strait of Hormuz to protect ships from Iranian seizures, a senior defense official said Friday, adding that the United States was increasingly concerned about the growing ties between Iran and Russia. and Syria in the Middle East.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, the official said the United States would send F-16 fighter jets to the Gulf region this weekend to reinforce the A-10 attack jets that have been patrolling there for more than a decade. ‘one week. The move comes after Iran tried to seize two tankers near the strait last week, opening fire on one of them.

The defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details on military operations in the region, said the F-16s will give air cover to ships moving through the waterway and increase the visibility of the army in the region, as a deterrent for Iran. .

The US Navy said in both cases that the Iranian navy ships backed off when the USS McFaul, a guided-missile destroyer, arrived on the scene.

In addition, the defense official told reporters that the United States was considering a number of military options to deal with Russia’s growing aggression in the skies above Syria, which has complicated efforts to strike an Islamic State group leader last weekend. The official declined to detail the options, but said the United States would not cede any territory and would continue to fly in the west of the country on anti-Islamic State missions.

Russian military activity, which has increased in frequency and aggression since March, stems from growing cooperation and coordination between Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian government in an attempt to pressure the United States to they are leaving Syria, the official said.

The official said that Russia was indebted to Iran for its support in the war in Ukraine, and that Tehran wanted the United States to leave Syria so that it could more easily deliver deadly aid to Lebanese Hezbollah and threaten Israel. The United States has seen more cooperation, collaboration, planning and intelligence sharing, largely between Russian and Iranian mid-level Al-Quds Force leaders in Syria, to pressure the United States. to withdraw their troops from Syria, the official added.

There are about 900 US forces in the country, with more moving in and out to carry out missions targeting Islamic State group militants.

The United States does not believe that Russian planes plan to drop bombs on American troops or shoot down manned aircraft. But there are concerns that Russian pilots could drop a Reaper drone from the sky and that Moscow believed such action would not get a strong US military response, the official said.

For example, in March a Russian warplane dumped kerosene on a US surveillance drone and then struck its propeller, forcing the US military to abandon the MQ-9 Reaper in the Black Sea. The incident raised tensions between the two countries and sparked a call between their defense chiefs, but led to no direct military response.

Last week, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, said the Russian and Syrian military were undergoing joint training. In comments carried by Syrian state media, he said Moscow was concerned about the U.S.-led coalition’s drone flights in northern Syria, calling them “systematic violations of protocols” designed to avoid clashes between the two armies.

US and Russian military commanders communicate regularly through a deconfliction phone line that has been in place for several years to avoid unintended clashes in Syria, where both sides have troops on the ground and in the air.

There are often numerous calls a day, and sometimes angry threats as commanders argue over an ongoing operation, the US official said. Describing a conversation, the official said the Russians will often declare an area of ​​space a restricted operations area and say they are conducting military exercises there.

The United States does not see any exercises and tells Russia that American forces are on a counter-terrorism mission against the Islamic State group and plan to fly in this area. The Russians then say they cannot guarantee the safety of American planes if they go there. And once the mission begins and the plane moves through the area, “it gets really hot at times,” the official said, as both sides loudly protest and dismiss each other’s claims.

The most recent incident took place on Friday morning, when a Russian plane repeatedly flew over the at-Tanf garrison in eastern Syria, where US forces train Syrian allies and monitor the activities of Islamic State militants. The official said the Russian An-30 plane was collecting intelligence on the base.

The United States had no fighter jets in the area and took no direct action against the Russian flight.

Leave a Comment