UK Special Boat Service frogmen, who are trained to remove mines from vessels, perpetrate underwater attacks as well as counter foreign troops, have been deployed to the Persian Gulf “as part of a deterrent” amid growing tensions between Iran and the US, The Mirror reports citing its sources.
Apart from these elite commandos, highly-trained Royal Navy divers, who specialise in defusing explosives, have also been sent there to support the SBS. Their aim is to protect British ships from alleged sabotage and attacks by Iran, the report says.
According to the outlet, the elite UK forces could have mini-subs, called Shallow Water Combat Submersibles. It cites a senior defence source as saying that one of the SBS’s roles in the region “will be to gather intelligence on Iranian mining operations”.
“It will work closely with Royal Navy divers who are the specialists at disarming mines and protecting shipping. The SBS has a more aggressive role. Everyone is hoping that the tension will be eased and Iran will back down”, the source told The Mirror.
However, the Defence Ministry refused to “comment on special forces operations”.
In the meantime, UK Minister for the Middle East Andrew Murrison is set to visit Iran on a peacemaking mission.
"UK Minister of State for the Middle East, Dr Murrison, will conduct a short visit to Iran on 23 June … Dr Murrison will call for urgent de-escalation in the region and raise UK and international concerns about Iran’s regional conduct and its threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal to which the UK remains fully committed”, the ministry stated.
The situation around shipping near the Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean and controlled by Iran, escalated after an incident with two commercial vessels on 13 June. Two oil tankers, the Panama-registered Kokuka Courageous, operated by Japan’s Kokuka Sangyo Co, and Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair, owned by Norway's Frontline, were hit by blasts in the Gulf of Oman. The US and several other countries, namely Saudi Arabia and the UK, immediately put the blame on Iran.
Although Tehran has adamantly refuted these accusations, Washington decided to reinforce its military in the region with 1,000 additional US troops, an aircraft carrier strike group, Patriot missiles, B-52 bombers, and F-15 fighters.
The tensions reached a new level after Iran downed a US Global Hawk spy drone. Following the incident, US President Trump claimed that he had cancelled a retaliatory strike just 10 minutes before it was to take place, later announcing that military actions against Tehran were still on the table.