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Top US admiral nominee says foreign partners would do most of the work in Gulf plan

The Hill logo The Hill 7/31/2019 Rebecca Kheel
a large ship in a body of water: Top US admiral nominee says foreign partners would do most of the work in Gulf plan © Getty Images Top US admiral nominee says foreign partners would do most of the work in Gulf plan

The United States envisions a plan to escort ships through the Gulf region being carried out "80 or 90 percent" by allies and partners, the admiral nominated to lead the Navy said Wednesday.

"The coalition that we're building in the Arabian Gulf and specifically in the Strait of Hormuz is going to be 80 or 90 percent a coalition effort and a much smaller U.S. effort," Vice Adm. Michael Gilday told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, using an alternate name for the Persian Gulf. "It is primarily focused on providing intelligence support to the rest of the coalition. So we will escort our ships as they come along, but we won't be there in great numbers. The idea is for the regional partners to bear the lion's share of the burden."

Gilday, currently the director of the Joint Staff, was testifying at his confirmation hearing to be the next chief of naval operations.

Gilday's nomination to be the Navy's top admiral came after the previous, Senate-confirmed nominee instead abruptly retired amid questions about a professional relationship he maintained with an officer accused of misconduct.

On Wednesday, Gilday was asked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) whether the United States has enough resources to escort ships through the Gulf.

"We will have the resources and do have the resources to escort U.S.-flagged ships, U.S.-owned ships through the Strait of Hormuz. There aren't that many of them that make that transit," Gilday said.

The United States has been trying to sell a plan to partners and allies that it has dubbed Operation Sentinel to protect commercial ships sailing through the region amid heightened tensions with Iran.

The United States has blamed Iran for attacks on several oil tankers in the region over the past few months. Iran also seized a British-flagged tanker than was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month.

The Strait of Hormuz is a strategic choke point through which a fifth of the world's oil travels.

The United States, though, has had trouble getting other countries to sign on to the plan.

After the British tanker was seized, England announced its own plan for a European-led maritime security initiative.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has dismissed concerns of that being a sign of a crack in the alliance, calling the British effort "complementary."

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