US Central Command announced on July 20 that the US was deploying a Marines Corps unit and additional warships to the Middle East amid heightened tensions with Iran.
The command said in a press release that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the deployment of an Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU), which typically consists of about 2,200 marines and three amphibious warships.
CENTCOM said the deployment was ordered in response “to recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships.” Iran seized two vessels in the Persian Gulf region after the US seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil in the region in April. Since then, the US has announced it was conducting more patrols and sending more military assets to the Middle East, including fighter jets and a guided-missile destroyer.
The US seized the ship, the Suez Rajan, under the pretext of sanctions enforcement and is trying to steal its cargo, but the vessel is currently sitting off the coast of Texas, as American companies are hesitant to take the oil as they fear retaliation from Iran in the Persian Gulf.
The US has a history of seizing tankers and stealing Iranian cargo. In 2021, the Biden administration sold off two million barrels of Iranian oil taken from a tanker that was seized off the coast of the UAE. During the Trump administration, the US seized ships carrying Iranian gas bound for Venezuela and discharged some of the cargo in New York.
CENTCOM claimed that in the past two years, Iran has “attacked, seized, or attempted seizure of nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels in the CENTCOM area of operations.”