The Saudi government has defended its decision, saying it must "deter and counter threats to maritime navigation and global trade." Iran has accused Saudi Arabia and the United States of inciting conflict in the region.
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced its decision to join a US-led maritime security operation in the Persian Gulf days after two of its oil production facilities were targeted in an attack.
"The kingdom's accession to this international alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter and counter threats to maritime navigation and global trade," reported the official state-run Saudi Press Agency, citing a defense ministry official.
US and Saudi officials have accused Iran of involvement in the attacks on the oil production facilities. US President Donald Trump earlier this week threatened a military response, saying US forces are "locked and loaded."
The freedom of navigation operation in the Persian Gulf was launched in response to attacks on several merchant vessels and oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz throughout the summer. The White House has blamed the attacks on Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.
'We don't want war'
Tensions in the Persian Gulf have escalated over the attacks. Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility, saying they had launched several drones in a targeted assault on the oil production facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia. But US officials have cast doubt on those claims.
Unnamed US officials said there was reason to believe cruise missiles launched from southwestern Iran were used in the attack. "We don't want war with anybody but the United States prepared," said US Vice President Mike Pence.
Tehran has rejected the allegations. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country did not want to engage in a military conflict with neighboring Saudi Arabia or its allies.
"We don't want conflict in the region," Rouhani said. "Who started the conflict? Not the Yemenis. It was Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, America, certain European countries." He was referring to the five-year war in Yemen.
France announced on Wednesday that it would send a team of investigators to probe the attacks. The US has already sent a team. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for consultations.
Germany, the UK and China have urged caution in attributing blame, saying efforts must be taken to verify who is responsible for the attack.
The attack cut Saudi oil production capabilities by one-third, triggering a global oil supply shortage of more than 5%.
ls/sms (AP, Reuters)