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US sends F-16’s to the Gulf in response to Iranian ship seizures, Pentagon confirm

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In response to the recent surge in Iranian attempts to seize oil tankers, the United States will be deploying a new fleet of F-16 fighter jets to the Gulf this weekend, according to a senior US military official. The decision follows the US military’s deployment of A-10 fighter jets over the Strait of Hormuz over the past week. The official also expressed concern over the growing alliance between Russia, Iran, and Syria, suggesting that the three countries are seeking to remove the United States from Syria.

The US military’s latest move comes just weeks after dispatching a fleet of F-22 Raptors to the Middle East in response to Russia’s unsafe and unprofessional behavior in Syrian airspace. The anonymous official revealed that A-10s have been conducting flights over the Strait of Hormuz and the broader Gulf region for about a week and a half, with the deployment of F-16s this weekend aimed at bolstering the US presence. This increased air presence will provide enhanced visibility and enable the US to closely monitor ships in the region, their cargo, and ownership. The official emphasized that this would assist in assessing which vessels might be at risk.

The US Navy recently reported that Iran attempted to seize two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, even firing shots at one of them. The A-10s will complement the naval component and are equipped with munitions, including laser-guided bombs, that are particularly effective against fast boats. The official noted that the A-10 has demonstrated its capabilities in permissive environments without air threats or surface-to-air missile concerns. However, the official clarified that US protection is focused on vessels of national interest.

The senior military official also highlighted ongoing concerns regarding Russia’s actions in the region. Russian fighter jets have repeatedly harassed US drones conducting anti-ISIS missions in Syria, violating the agreed-upon protocols that mandate a three-nautical-mile distance between their aircraft and those of the US. The US military general in the Middle East has expressed alarm over these violations, which pose significant safety risks. The official further commented on the increasingly close relationship between Russia and Iran, suggesting that both countries aim to pressure the US to withdraw from Syria.

Regarding Russian surveillance reconnaissance missions over the Al-Tanf garrison in Syria, which houses US troops, the official downplayed the Russian threat, likening it to an occasional annoyance that needs to be addressed. The official emphasized that the US remains committed to its mission of defeating ISIS and will not concede territory to Russia, Iran, or any other actors. While Washington does not seek escalation, the official cautioned that the US would respond if a genuine threat emerged.

As the situation unfolds, the deployment of F-16s to the Gulf underscores the US’s determination to protect its interests in the region and ensure the safety of vital shipping routes amidst escalating tensions with Iran and Russia.

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