US making Gulf region a tinderbox

US making Gulf region a tinderbox


The oil tanker traffic passing through the Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz has become the focus of a US-Iranian standoff since Washington pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.

After explosions that damaged six tankers in May and June and Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in July, the US has launched a maritime security mission in the Gulf, joined by Britain, to protect merchant vessels.

The Iranian Foreing Minister Javad Zarif,  cited by Qatar-based Al Jazeera, to say that the Strait 'is narrow, it will become less safe as foreign (navy) vessels increase their presence in it'.

'The region has become a matchbox ready to ignite because the US  and its allies are flooding it with weapons,' he said.

Mr. Zarif, who arrived in Doha, met  Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Monday for talks to convey that message, Iranian state-run media reported.Qatar, which hosts one of the biggest U.S. military bases in the Middle East, is trying not to be drawn into the escalating conflict.

Iraq, which maintains good relations with both Washington and Tehran, cautioned on Monday that the deployment of Western forces was fueling regional tension.

'The states of the Gulf can together secure the transit of ships,' the  Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mr.  Mohammed al-Hakim, said. 'Iraq is seeking to reduce tension in our region through calm negotiations...The presence of Western forces in the region will increase tension.'

Last month, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the British tanker, Stena Impero near the Strait for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of violating sanctions on Syria.

The tanker dispute has tangled Britain in the diplomatic dispute between the EU’s big powers - which want to preserve the Iran nuclear deal - and the US which has pushed for a tougher policy on Iran.