The US says it wants to create an international military coalition to safeguard waters around Iran and Yemen.
Marine Gen Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he wanted to “ensure freedom of navigation” in the region, which provides essential trade routes.
Last month the US blamed Iranian-backed fighters for attacks on two tankers.
Gen Dunford said the US was talking to a number of countries with the “political will” to support the plans.
The US would provide “command and control” ships, leading surveillance efforts, he said. However, the aim would be for other countries to offer boats to establish patrols nearby, and escort commercial ships carrying their flags through the area.