22:02 GMT12 August 2020
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    The US military and intelligence agencies are reportedly developing covert strategies, intended to deter Iran's alleged aggression in the Persian Gulf without dragging the region into a full-scale war.

    The United States is forming a coalition with its allies to defend Gulf shipping lanes by having "eyes on all shipping", a senior official from the US State Department said after recent attacks on oil tankers that Washington blamed on Iran.

    "It's about proactive deterrence because the Iranians just want to go out and do what they want to do and say hey we didn't do it. We know what they've done", the senior official from the US State Department stated.

    When asked about if the US will send troops, the official noted that "the US will participate".

    The coalition of nations would offer both material and financial contributions to the "Sentinel" programme, the official stated without naming the countries.

    Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump stated that China, Japan and other countries should be protecting their own ships in the Middle East instead of relying on free US protection.

    "China gets 91% of its Oil from the Straight, Japan 62%, & many other countries likewise. So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation. All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey", Trump said in a statement on Twitter.

    The statement comes after Trump said on 22 June that the US would impose "major" new sanctions on Iran on 24 June following an incident where the Iranians downed a drone.

    Iran last week said it had downed a US surveillance drone flying over Hormozgan province on the country’s southern coast after it violated the country's airspace. US Central Command said that the drone was shot down while operating over the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz.

    Following the incident, President Donald Trump said the United States was "cocked and loaded" for retaliatory strikes on Iran but added that he called off planned attacks because they would have been "disproportionate."

    Tensions between the United States and Iran have been rising since Washington pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers last year and stated imposing series of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

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