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Persian Gulf

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

12. What recent assessment he has made of the capacity of the Royal Navy presence in the Persian gulf to counter seaborne threats. (267186)

The Royal Navy currently contributes vessels to maritime taskforces in the Persian gulf as part of Operation Telic. The Royal Navy’s capacity in the Persian gulf is appropriate to the threat, but kept under constant review.

Alongside an extensive range of other commitments in the region, the Royal Navy has done some important work with the transition team alongside the Iraqi navy, which is in the middle of an ambitious programme to expand in size by 2010. How will the draw-down of British forces in Iraq affect that naval team, and will the Royal Navy be able to continue working with the Iraqi navy for the duration of the programme?

We are discussing with the Iraqi Government what they would like us to do as part of our ongoing relationship since the combat mission of Operation Telic began in 2003. Although the talks have not concluded yet, the continued training of the Iraqi navy will be an important part of the process. That idea is certainly on the table and is being actively discussed, and we will make an announcement to the House as soon as we reach a conclusion with the Iraqi Government.

Will the Minister continue to bear it in mind that the main threat in the Persian gulf is that from land-based Iranian rockets, which are capable of threatening the passage of ships through the strait of Hormuz?

We have to be mindful of the threat, no matter where it comes from. We have more available than just our forces at the top end of the Persian gulf. There is an existing and long-standing mine threat to international shipping, so the threat in the Persian gulf is complex and we must be mindful of it, no matter where it may come from.