US Troops Ready to Protect Busy Oil Route if Iran Moves to Block It

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) transits the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, June 13, 2018. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dominick A. Cremeans)
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) transits the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, June 13, 2018. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dominick A. Cremeans)

American troops in the Middle East are prepared to keep a vital crude-oil transit lane open after Iranian officials threatened to block it over the threat of new sanctions.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards said this week that the country would prevent any oil from being exported through the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping lane between Iran and Oman. About 30 percent of all seaborne-traded crude oil and other liquids are carried through the strait every year, according to Bloomberg.

The U.S. military and its partners in the region are prepared to respond if needed.

"Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows," Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said in an emailed statement to Military.com.

There are currently thousands of U.S. troops in the region, including about 2,200 Marines and sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima. Their mission includes "preserving the free flow of commerce," according to a Navy news release.

Iran's threat to block the Strait of Hormuz follows a State Department announcement that any company that buys crude oil from that country must cut those exports by November, CNBC reported. That was earlier than some expected, according to CNBC, following President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Esmail Kowsari, deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran, said this week that if Iran's oil exports are prevented, "we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz," according to Bloomberg.

The Iwo Jima and guided-missile destroyer Laboon passed through the Strait of Hormuz just weeks ago, according to Defense Department photos.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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