BRITAIN is sending more troops to a base in Bahrain to protect ships travelling through the Gulf amid rising tensions with Iran, reports claim.
Boris Johnson ordered the Royal Navy to accompany all British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz in an escalation of the Iran crisis.
Britain is sending more troops to a base in Bahrain in protect ships in the Gulf[/caption]
Sky News reported that the extra troops will be deployed as part of the UK Maritime Component Command.
It comes after a second Royal Navy warship arrived in the Gulf to travel with ships flying under the British flag.
Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan joined the Frigate HMS Montrose nine days after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized British oil tanker the Stena Impero.
Britain opened a permanent military base in Bahrain in April last year in an attempt to boost its role as a “major player” in the Middle East and tackle any threats.
The £40m UK Naval Support facility at Mina Salman was staffed with up to 500 soldiers, sailors and airmen when it opened.
The launch came 47 years after Britain left its original HMS Juffair base in Bahrain following the country’s declaration of independence.
The base supports the operation of bigger ships in the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
It was previously announced that British-flagged ships travelling in the Strait of Hormuz will be accompanied by a Royal Navy escort, with officials advising shipping companies to travel in convoy.
HMS Montrose has so far escorted 35 shipping vessels through the troubled strait during 20 separate journeys.
The Ministry of Defence stressed the importance of freedom of navigation for global trade and economies.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies. Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world.
“I’m pleased that HMS Duncan will continue HMS Montrose’s fine work in helping to secure this essential route.
“While we continue to push for a diplomatic resolution that will make this possible again without military accompaniment, the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels until this is the reality.”
Around a fifth of the world’s oil travelled through the strait between Iran and Oman in 2018.
On Wednesday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani indicated that the captured Stena Impero could be released if the UK returns an Iranian oil tanker seized by the Royal Navy near Gibraltar earlier this month.
Stena Bulk, who owns the British-flagged tanker, said embassy officials have met crew members from their respective countries.
A statement from the company on Saturday said: “Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management continue to work closely with the authorities to secure the release of the Stena Impero and its 23 crew members.
“Feedback from the officials is that the crew are in good health and they appreciated the interaction with their government representatives.
“The crew members continue to have limited contact with family members, who we continue to support during this difficult time.”
The seizure of the Stena Impero came two weeks after Royal Marines seized a supertanker believed to be carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria on July 4.
The oil tanker Grace 1 was detained on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Iran has since been threatening to seize a British tanker in retaliation if the Grace 1 is not released.
Three Iranian boats also tried to seize a BP oil tanker as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday July 10.
Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose – which was escorting the tanker through the flashpoint region – was forced to sail in front of the boats.
After quickly training its 30mm deck guns on the enemy boats, deploying its Wildcat helicopter and issuing a radio warning, the Iranian boats scarpered.
HMS Duncan was then deployed to patrol the busy shipping lane as all UK flagged vessels were put on the highest security alert level.
But an Iranian bomb boat was found in its path, meaning the HMS Duncan could have been destroyed by the unmanned attack ship packed with explosives, the Mirror reports.
Iran had earlier been blamed for a series of devastating sea mine attacks on US-linked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
Last month, Trump called off a planned airstrike on Iranian military targets at the last minute in retaliation for the shooting down of an unmanned US drone.
Yesterday, US warship the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf with officials saying they used electronic jamming to bring the unmanned craft down.
Iran though completely denied this saying the US had mistakenly downed one of its own drones.
Iran has been squaring up to the West as it reels over the scrapping of the so-called nuclear deal by the US.
ESCALATING TENSIONS: Timeline
July 4: Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar seize an Iranian supertanker suspected of carrying oil to Syria
July 11: HMS Montrose trains its guns on Iran gunboats trying to hijack a British tanker, the BP-owned Heritage
July 18: President Donald Trump reveals the US Navy shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after warnings were ignored
July 19: Two Brit oil tankers including Stena Impero seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard
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