Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded affirmatively this week to the question of whether the U.S. is “committed to keeping open the Strait of Hormuz at any cost militarily.”
“Yeah, we’re going to keep them open,” Pompeo said Monday at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “We’re going to build out a maritime security plan. Countries from all across the world who have a vested interest in keeping those waterways open will participate.”
“It will take more time than we wish it would take,” he added. “But I’m very confident that the world understands its importance that America is prepared to be a significant part of that, but we need countries from all across the world to assist us in protecting commercial transit. We’ll be successful.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told “like-minded” allies at a NATO defense ministerial in Brussels at the end of June that they should join the “broader maritime surveillance” campaign to have eyes on Iranian activities in the Persian Gulf region.
Around the same time, Pompeo began efforts to put together a vague-on-details Sentinel program, which he said at the time should include about 20 countries though any firm commitments were unclear.
Esper described Pompeo as being on the “front lines” of the effort as “we’re not trying to put a military coalition as much as a coalition writ large of like-minded allies who share our concerns about freedom of navigation, who share our concerns about Iran’s nuclear pursuits in the past, their missile technologies and, frankly, their malign activities in the region.”
Pompeo was pressed Monday on whether the U.S. pledge of protection applied to just U.S. ships, especially as Iran still holds 23 crew members of the Stena Impero after seizing the British-flagged tanker on July 19.
“We are working — I was working with — I guess I’m now working with my third British foreign minister since I’ve been a secretary of State,” Pompeo said. “But working with the British to find the solution to both A, right that injustice, and second, prevent it from happening again, so to establish deterrence.”
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters in mid-July that “escorting in the normal course of events would be done by countries who have the same flag, so a ship that is flagged from a particular country would be escorted by that country.”
“The United States is uniquely capable of providing is some of the command and control, some of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but the expectation is the actual patrolling and escorts would be done by others,” Dunford said.