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Allies play hard to bring forth the US proposal to protect oil tank paths

DUBAI / PARIS (Reuters) – The United States is struggling to win its allies support for an initiative to increase the monitoring of key oil shipments in the Middle East because of the fear that it will increase tensions with Iran, six sources familiar with the question said.

On July 9, Washington proposed increasing efforts to protect strategic waters off Iran and Yemen where it blames Iran and its proxy for tanker attacks. Iran denies the charges.

But with Washington's allies, reluctant to commit new weapons or armed forces, a leading Pentagon official told Reuters on Thursday that the US's goal was not to establish a military coalition without shining a "flashlight" in the region to deter commercial attacks. shipping.

Due to fear of confrontation, any involvement of Washington's allies is likely limited to marine personnel and equipment already in existence ̵

1; near the Hormuz section of the bay and the Bab al-Mandab section of the Red Sea, two Gulf sources and a British security source said.

"The Americans want to create an" alliance of the willing "who confronts future attacks," said a Western diplomat. "No one wants to be on the confrontational course and part of an American push against Iran."

(Graphic: Tensions rise in the strategic oil point – tmsnrt.rs/2FESiH4)

Addressing such fears or possible misunderstandings, Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon's top political officials, told Reuters in an interview that the new initiative "not about military confrontation".

According to Washington's proposal, the United States would provide coordinating ships and lead surveillance operations while allies would patrol nearby waters and escort commercial vessels with their nation's flags.

Iran has said that foreign powers should provide security routes to Tehran and other countries in the region.

France, which has a naval base in the United Arab Emirates, does not plan to escort ships and sees the US plan as counterproductive to ease tensions because Tehran would see it as anti-Iran, a French official said.

The British security source said it was not profitable to escort each commercial ship, a view shared by several other countries.

A leading Western official based in Beijing said it was "no way" China would join a maritime coalition. A South Korean official said Washington had not yet made any official request.

A decision by Japan to join such an initiative would likely lead to a split in Japanese public opinion about sending troops abroad. Japan's military has not fought abroad since World War II.

"The Americans have talked to anyone interested in setting up something, mainly looking for Asia, because it is crucial for their supply of (oil) supply and demand for ships, but it has gone a little quiet," a gulf official said.

India has deployed two ships in the bay to protect Indian flagged ships since June 20. Other Asian oil importers are unlikely to have anything but a symbolic presence, such as the involvement of a federal officer, officials and diplomats said.

"It's just impossible. The punishment is already too crowded," says an Asian official on an escort system in the Hormuz section that is 33 km wide at its narrowest point.

FILE PHOTO: US Navy Fifth Fleet members are preparing for to escort journalists to a tanker at a US NAVCENT facility near the port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates on June 19, 2019. The fifth fleet protects oil tankers in the Middle East. REUTERS / Christopher Pike / File Photo

A second Gulf official said: " We will not do anything so, we will not do anything on our own. "RISING TENSION

Tensions rose further on Thursday after Iran's revolutionary guards said they had seized a foreign fuel for tanker smuggling. A US military commander in the region said that the United States would work "aggressively" to ensure the free passage of ships in and around the Hormuzestreet.

The US President Donald Trump last year concluded a nuclear pact in 2015, during which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program to the contradiction of economic sanctions that degraded its economy.

France, the United Kingdom and Germany, which with Russia and China are parties to the agreement, have tried to save the deal and lose tensions.

Failure to secure support for the Maritime Initiative would be a blow to US and Sunni Muslim Allies efforts by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to isolate Shiite Muslim Iran and Iran-backed forces in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are already patrolling the coast outside of Yemen where they are leading a coalition fighting the Iranian Houthi movement, even though the UAE has said it is lowering its presence there.

Asked what role Riyadh could play in the US initiative, a Saudi military official said it would be the role of the Saudi coalition in recent years in the Red Sea as part of the Yemen war, including escorting and securing commercial shipping.

The United States does not want to go alone.

"There are enough resources in the region now for the job at hand. The Americans want an international stamp for this bet, one of the Gulf Sources says." They (the US) do not want to bear the financial burden. "

Technical and Financial aspects, such as refueling, bunkering and maintenance costs, still need to be cleared before the countries register, the source said.

The police burden would fall to a large extent on the United States, which has protected shipping in the region for decades with its Bahrain-based fifth fleet. It is also the head of the combined naval forces, a 33-nation marionallian who performs security and counter-piracy in the region.

Britain has a base in Oman and China has a military base in Djibouti, which is off the Bab al-Mandab route. Beijing has moderately tired in the region as it has close energy links with both Iran and Saudi Arabia.


Riyadh and Abu Dhabi support US sanctions against Iran, which lacks a strong conventional fleet, but has many ship boats, portable ship solutions and mines.

An official from the US State Department, who asked not to be named, said that Bahrain would host a Safety and Aviation Safety Working Group meeting in the fall as part of a follow-up to a global conference in Warsaw in February that gathered some 60 nations to discuss stability in the Middle East.

FILE PHOTO: An Emirati official is checking members of the US Navy Fifth Fleet as they prepare to escort journalists to tankers at a US NAVCENT facility near the port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates on June 19, 2019. The fifth fleet protects the oil lane lane in his region. REUTERS / Christopher Pike / File Photo

The Gulf States, which are major purchasers of Western arms, have invested more in air and landscape capacity than in sea assets and have little experience of coordinating large fleet emissions.

The majority of the vessels are small patrol vessels and corvettes that would fight on extended missions, says Tom Waldwyn, research assistant for the Military Balance at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Wheelbarger, the US Pentagon official, suggested small, fast ships would be helpful. She said several countries have expressed interest in the initiative but did not name them.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Guy Faulconbridge and Jonathan Saul in London, Ben Blanchard and Cate Cadell in Beijing, Hyonhee Shin in Seoul, Alexander Cornwell and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai and Stephen Kalin in Riyadh. Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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