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Iranian Revolutionary Guards high-speed boat circles British oil tanker in Persian Gulf

Photo: Hasan Shirvani/ AP

According to government sources, the United States is preparing to deploy soldiers to protect tankers in the Persian Gulf. As the AFP news agency learned on Thursday in Washington, it is planned to deploy marines and marines on merchant ships operating in the Strait of Hormuz and its surroundings. In this way, the U.S. military would additionally secure the trade routes already monitored by warships and fighter jets.

The background to the possible operations are several incidents in which Iran seized or attacked tankers in the Persian Gulf. As was the case most recently at the beginning of May, when a fleet of high-speed boats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGCN) seized the Greek "Niovi" flying the flag of Panama. The tanker was traveling without cargo from Dubai to Fujairah, another port of the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. military reported.

According to U.S. sources, Tehran has seized or attempted to seize 20 ships flying the flag of other states in the past two years. On July 5, U.S. forces prevented renewed attempts off the coast of Oman. Iran's response to international accusations was either that it had to stop "smuggling of oil" or that it was not responsible for the incidents.

The Strait of Hormuz, located between the coasts of Iran, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, transports around one-fifth of the world's traded oil.

Since the tankers are privately operated merchant ships, the soldiers would have to be invited on board. According to government sources, the US military is already preparing for possible deployments.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby and a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense have so far declined to comment on the possible deployment of soldiers on merchant ships.