Thursday, 19 September 2019

Australia to send warship and Defence Force to Middle East to support US

Credit: Prime Minister’s Office via Twitter.

MELBOURNE: Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the move this morning, saying it was in support of US-led efforts to keep the Strait of Hormuz open for shipping.

Mr Morrison said recent disruption to shipping in the region was a threat to Australia’s national interests.

Australia has been considering joining the US-led military effort, which also includes the United Kingdom and Bahrain, for weeks.

Tension in the region increased when the UK seized an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar, prompting Iran to retaliate by seizing a British tanker in the Persian Gulf.

“Fifteen to 16 per cent of crude oil and 25 to 30 per cent of refined oil destined for Australia transits through the Strait of Hormuz,” Mr Morrison said.

“So it is a potential threat to our economy.”

The US and Iran have become increasingly combative since US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement which curbed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.

Iran retaliated by resuming uranium enrichment, seen in the West as a potential conduit to it developing a nuclear bomb.

But it faces severe economic damage under intensified US sanctions designed to strangle its vital oil trade.

After several attacks in May and June on oil tankers – which Washington blamed on Tehran – Mr Trump began trying to forge a military coalition to secure Gulf waters.

America’s European allies have been loath to join the effort, for fear of provoking open conflict.

Mr Morrison made the announcement that Australia would join up at Parliament House alongside Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Chief Angus Campbell.

The Prime Minister and Senator Reynolds said Australia’s role would be limited to just protecting shipping lanes.

“Australia’s core interest in this mission is de-escalation. It is all about de-escalating rising tensions in the Gulf,” Senator Reynolds said.

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