- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2019

The United Kingdom announced on Monday it is joining the Pentagon’s proposed joint mission to protect vessels traveling through the Persian Gulf amid soaring tensions with Iran.

The move comes a day after Iran said it intercepted a third ship traveling in the Gulf, and just weeks after a British tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping channel in the Gulf, was taken by Iranian forces.

European allies, many of which blame Washington in part for the tensions by abandoning the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran, have been reluctant to sign on to the U.S. proposal for joint operations to protect shipping in the heavily trafficked waterway. London’s decision is one of the first taken under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ideological ally of President Trump.

“We welcome the decision of the United Kingdom to participate in the international maritime security construct to enhance maritime domain awareness, promote safe passage and enhance freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Arabian Sea, and Bab al-Mandeb,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Rebeca Rebarich in a statement Monday.

New British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told reporters in London, “Our aim is to build the broadest international support to uphold international navigation.”

The country will send two Royal Navy ships to the Gulf to join the two U.S. ships stationed in the region, the Guardian newspaper reported.

In the aftermath of the IRGC’s seizure of its ship, Britain suggested it may be time to take a harder line.

“This is an international challenge,” Ms. Rebarich said, “and we look forward to the opportunity to work together with the Royal Navy and with additional partners and allies who share the common goal of ensuring the free flow of commerce.”

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