Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the commitment of ADF assets to a new maritime security mission in the Middle East focused on the Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz regions.
Aimed at assuring the safety of maritime traffic through the sensitive region, the mission will see the ADF commit an RAAF P-8A Poseidon maritime ISR aircraft for an initial period of one month by the end of 2019, the diversion of an RAN frigate from Operation Manitou (Australia’s regional counter-piracy and counter-terrorism mission) for a six-month period from January 2020, and the deployment of a contingent of ADF security personnel to the International Maritime Security Construct headquarters in Bahrain.
A joint statement from Prime Minister Morrison, Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Marise Payne, and Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds says, “The Government has been concerned with incidents involving shipping in the Strait of Hormuz over the past few months”, and that, “this destabilising behaviour is a threat to Australian interests in the region.
“Freedom of navigation through international waters is a fundamental right of all states under international law,” the statement reads. “All states have a right to expect safe passage of their maritime trade consistent with international law. It is in Australia’s interest to work with international partners to uphold these rights.”
The announcement follows increased tensions between Iran and US-led group of nations including the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in recent months. Apart from Australia, this new mission so far includes the US, UK and Bahrain.
In June Iran shot down a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft that it claims had intruded into its airspace, and more recently Iranian Republican Guard vessels have harassed or captured several foreign flagged merchant vessels transiting the narrow littoral waters.