(Persia Digest) - Australia will join the international mission to protect shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, contributing a navy frigate, a maritime patrol aircraft, and planning and operations personnel.

The Australian reports that Scott Morrison made the announcement this morning, saying the government had been concerned for some time about security in the Strait, where Iran has been targeting international shipping.

“This destabilising behaviour is a threat to Australian interests in the region, particularly our enduring interests in the security of global sea lanes … 15-16 per cent of crude oil, and 25-35 per cent of refined oil destined for Australia transits through the Straits of Hormuz,” the Prime Minister said. “So it is a potential threat to our economy.”

Mr Morrison said Australia also strongly supported global laws around freedom of navigation.

The frigate, P-8A Poseidon and personnel to be deployed in operational roles would be “limited in scope” and “time bound”, he said.

Mr Morrison, who leaves today for G7 talks in France, said he would discuss Australia’s commitment with international counterparts during the meeting.

He said Australia would protect its interests wherever they were under threat and would work with international allies in the interests of maintaining global order.

The ship would deploy in January for a six-month deployment, Mr Morrison said.

“We will work with our partners, we will play our part in shaping a better future for Australia and Australians, as well in our region and across the world.”

The Prime Minister said he had discussed the contribution with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this morning. Mr Pompeo today warned Iran that anyone who “touches,” supports or allows an Iranian tanker carrying crude oil to dock will risk US sanctions.

He said if Iranian supertanker Adrian Darya heads to Syria, in violation of sanctions, “we’ll take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that.”

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During talks in Sydney this month in Sydney, Mr Pompeo pushed for Australia to join an international coalition against Iranian actions against ships.

Mr Morrison said there would be 177 personnel on the frigate, about 10 on the aircraft and a yet to be determined number that will be sent to the operation’s headquarters.

Mr Morrison denied resources were being shifted out of the Indo-Pacific region during the operation. “What we are doing is tasking an asset that is going to be in the Gulf. So it is not going to be directed away from the region more broadly,” Mr Morrison said.

“It has been cast to a particular role in this operation. To what extent that requires us to consider other matters well we will consider those in time as well.

“This is a very constrained commitment. We are basically tasking an asset to a region that it was already tasked to.”

He said the mission would “in no shape or form” detract from Australia’s commitment to our nearest neighbours. He said his attentiveness to the Indo-Pacific region was showcased through his visit to Vietnam tomorrow, along with his engagement with Indonesia, India, Japan and South Korea.

Acting Labor leader Richard Marles backed the Prime Minister’s decision to join the operation in the Persian Gulf.

“Labor supports this decision we do so on the basis of this being a mission which is tightly framed around freedom of navigation for commercial shipping, within the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf,” Mr Marles said.

“Freedom of navigation for Australia, as a trading island nation, is completely central to our national interest. The vast bulk of our trade goes by sea and trade forms a very large part of our national economy.

“Australia has a long history in participating in freedom of navigation operations such as what has been proposed here. We believe that the precise contribution that the government is proposing for Australia to make to the (operation) is appropriately calibrated to what Australia can reasonably provide.” 

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