Royal Marines Deploying To Middle East For 'Pre-Planned' Exercise, MOD Insists

The MOD has rejected reports that the Royal Marines are deploying to the Middle East to protect British shipping.

The MOD said the Royal Marines are heading to the region on a "pre-planned training deployment" (Picture: MOD).

Royal Marines are set to deploy to the Middle East for a "pre-planned" exercise which is "in no way related" to an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said.

A report by the Sunday Times claimed around 100 Marines would be sent to protect British ships in the region, amid rising tensions with Iran.

However, the MOD said that is incorrect and insist their deployment is focused on routine training. 

A spokesperson said: "This is a pre-planned training deployment and is in no way related to the ongoing situation in the Gulf of Oman.”

On Twitter, 42 Commando RM said: "Unglamorous as it may be, yes it is. We know because we’ve done all of the sodding pre-planning!"

Between 20 and 30 Marines will take part in the exercise, which the MOD said was scheduled before the first attack on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates last month.

The latest attack on oil tankers in the region has seen Iran blamed again.

The Iranian government has complained to the British ambassador in Tehran after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the country was "almost certainly" responsible for the attack.

The US and Saudi Arabia also accused Iran.

Damaged carrier in Gulf of Oman
Smoke billowing from an oil tanker that was attacked in the Gulf of Oman earlier this week (Picture: PA).

Iran has denied involvement in both attacks, saying the latest accusation is an "unfound claim" in America's "Iranophobic campaign".

Tensions between the two nations have been rising since the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Last month, the US sent an aircraft carrier and bombers to the region to counter what it said was a growing threat from Iran.

Meanwhile, defence minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News that Britain must protect its assets in the region:

"These tensions that are rising are a concern for us all.

"The Strait of Hormuz is an active international passage for oil and other commodities to come out and it's important that they are free and are able to move, without the problems and challenges that we face."