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UAE Agrees To Join U.S.-Led Maritime Coalition To Protect Gulf Shipping

Photo caption:

Photo by Mandel Ngan AP

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have both agreed to join a U.S.-led maritime contingent to protect Gulf shipping.

The United Arab Emirates said Thursday it would join a U.S.-led maritime coalition aimed at protecting international shipping in and near the Strait of Hormuz following alleged Iranian attacks on oil tankers there.

The UAE joins neighbors Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, along with the United Kingdom and Australia in the effort to protect vessels in the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the narrow Strait of Hormuz waterway that separates them and which acts as a transit point for a fifth of the world's oil exports.

The announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the Emirates on Thursday for a brief stopover after visiting Saudi Arabia.

Emirates Foreign Ministry official Salem al Zaabi was quoted by state-run WAM news agency as saying that the UAE joined the coalition to "ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy."

It was not immediately clear what the UAE would contribute to the effort, but the country's small navy possesses several patrol and missile boats.

The decision to join the coalition comes a day after close ally Saudi Arabia also signed on in the wake of attacks on its oil installations. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks, but both Washington and Riyadh blame Iran.

Saudi Arabia led an invasion of Yemen in 2015 and has been engaged in a protracted fight with the rebels there ever since.

In a tweet earlier Thursday, Pompeo said that "[t]he U.S. stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself."

Tehran has denied any involvement in either the attacks on Saudi Arabia or on shipping in the Strait.

The multinational maritime alliance was proposed by the U.S. in June after Iran was first accused of attacking oil tankers in the Gulf. Under a plan detailed the following month, the U.S. said it would provide coordinating ships and head up surveillance efforts, leaving coalition members to patrol and provide escort to commercial ships flying their flag.

Australia and Britain officially signed on last month. However, Washington has been unable to persuade its other European NATO allies to come aboard.

Many of those countries are still angry over President Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. Despite evidence that Tehran was staying within the terms of the agreement, Trump repeatedly claimed that Iran was not living up to the pact.

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