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Saudi Arabia joins US-led naval patrols in Strait of Hormuz

Saudi Arabia joins US-led naval patrols in Strait of Hormuz
Riyadh has enlisted in a US-led coalition aimed at protecting merchant ships as they travel through the Strait of Hormuz. The waterway has become a hotspot amid rising tensions with Iran.

A source inside Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed on Wednesday that the kingdom had joined the International Maritime Security Construct, state media reported.

Saudi Arabia’s accession to the naval alliance comes days after a drone attack targeted a major oil facility in the country. Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the precision strikes, but Washington insists the real culprit is Iran.

Spearheaded by the United States, the coalition’s other members are Australia, Bahrain, and the United Kingdom. Together, the countries patrol the Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandab, the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf, purportedly in an effort to protect merchant vessels from attack.

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The group was formed following a number of maritime incidents in the region, beginning with mysterious attacks against two oil tankers off the coast of Oman in June. Washington blamed Iran for the attack, but never provided evidence to back its claim. Then, in early July, an Iranian oil tanker allegedly bound for Syria was boarded by British marines off the coast of Gibraltar.

Iran denounced the act of “state piracy” and retaliated by seizing a UK-flagged vessel as it entered the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranian tanker was released in late August, while the British-flagged ‘Stena Impero’ is still in Iranian custody. Tehran says that the vessel will be released soon.

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