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Commercial vessels targeted: UAE


FILE – In this May 30, 2012, file photo, fishermen cross the sea waters off Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, near the Strait of Hormuz. The United Arab Emirates said Sunday, May 12, 2019 that four commercial ships near Fujairah “were subjected to sabotage operations” after false reports circulated in Lebanese and Iranian media outlets saying there had been explosions at the Fujairah port. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

DUBAI, May 12, (Agencies): Four commercial vessels were targeted by “sabotage operations” near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates without causing casualties, the foreign ministry said on Sunday in a statement tweeted by state news agency WAM.

The incident occurred near the UAE emirate of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs that lies just outside the Strait of Hormuz, it said.

The strait is a vital oil and natural gas corridor for the global energy market. “Subjecting commercial vessels to sabotage operations and threatening the lives of their crew is considered a dangerous development,” the statement said.

Tensions are running high in the region after the US military sent forces, including an aircraft carrier, to the Middle East to counter what the White House says are “clear indications” of threats from Iran to its forces there.

The ministry gave no details about the nature of the sabotage and said it had launched an investigation in coordination with international authorities. It said the incident did not result in any spills.

The government of Fujairah earlier in a tweet denied media reports about blasts inside the port of Fujairah and said the facility was operating normally. The statement did not identify the media outlets that published those reports but the Iranian Press TV website cited a Lebanese broadcaster, Mayadeen, saying seven oil tankers were attacked in the port.

A US aircraft carrier strike group rushes toward the Arabian Gulf. Decades-old B-52 bombers rumble down runways at desert air bases. The Pentagon, meanwhile, routes a Patriot missile battery and an amphibious supply ship to return to the region. These military deployments in the Arabian Gulf, beginning with a sudden May 5 order from the White House citing still unspecified threats from Iran, comes as Tehran has begun setting its own deadlines over its unraveling nuclear deal that President Donald Trump pulled America of out of a year ago.

Yet even without these movements, the US has maintained a vast network of bases across the Arabian Gulf dating back to the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. Allied Gulf Arab nations, many rich from oil reserves, equip their own forces with billions of dollars of American arms as well.

Here’s what military assets the US has across the Arabian Gulf, those it is now bringing in, and why America has maintained its long presence in the region. Unrelenting force John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, announced the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its strike group on May 5 over troubling and escalatory indications and warnings that still have not been specified. He warned Iran any attack would US interests or allies would face unrelenting force. The Lincoln, which left the US in April on a scheduled deployment, had planned to come to the Arabian Gulf on its around the world trip to San Diego, California.

Now it is steaming there earlier. Alongside the Lincoln are three destroyers, the USS Bainbridge, the USS Mason and the USS Nitze, as well as the guided-missile cruiser the USS Leyte Gulf and a Spanish frigate, the ESPS Mendez Nunez. Separately, B-52s from the 20th Bomb Squadron of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana have landed in Qatar and elsewhere in southwest Asia – possibly the United Arab Emirates – in recent days. On Friday, the Pentagon announced it would be returning a Patriot missile battery to the wider Mideast, as well as sending the USS Arlington, an amphibious warship carrying US Marines. The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying Marines and warplanes, just left the Arabian Gulf and is nearby in the Arabian Sea. US bases, personnel in the region the Arabian Gulf hosts a series of major American military installations.

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, is based in Bahrain, an island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia that is home to over 7,000 American troops. Kuwait hosts over 13,000 American troops and the US Army’s Central forward headquarters. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is the largest port of call for the US Navy outside of America. The UAE hosts 5,000 US military personnel, many at Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Air Base, where American drones and advanced F-35 jetfighters are stationed.

The forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command is at Qatar’s sprawling Al Udeid Air Base, home to some 10,000 American troops. In Oman, the sultanate allows thousands of overflights and hundreds of landings a year, while also granting access to ports and its bases.

Meanwhile, US special forces personnel reportedly are on the ground in Yemen amid the Saudi-led war against the Houthi rebels. The US also carries out a years-long drone-strike campaign there targeting suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. US presence from the Carter Doctrine to the war years During the Cold War, the US pledged to defend its Arabian Gulf allies from the Soviet Union. By the start of 1980, however, the region was in turmoil.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran had thrown out the American-allied shah. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan sparked fear in the administration of President Jimmy Carter that Moscow could be within striking distance of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea now passes. The president’s eponymous Carter Doctrine emerged from that. It holds that the US would use military force to defend its interests across the energyrich Arabian Gulf.

But what would cement the US presence in the region came in 1990, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded his oil-rich neighbor Kuwait. Defense agreements struck with Gulf Arab nations then grew into a series of major military installations across the region. The presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, home to the Muslim world’s holiest sites, served as a chief complaint of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden ahead of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks. Those attacks led to the US war in Afghanistan, which continues today over 17 years later.

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