Developments around Gulf: U.S. finds friends and reluctant-friends

oil tanker 1

The United States is trying to build up coalition for its Gulf expedition. The world power is finding a few friends while a few of its friends are not feeling easy with joining the war-coalition and the world power is facing problems in building up the war axis.

Media reports said:

U.S. allies feel ‘ashamed’, say Zarif

The U.S. is unable to build a naval coalition to escort tankers in the Gulf because its allies are too “ashamed” to join it, said Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister.

“Today the United States in alone in the world and cannot create a coalition. Countries that are its friends are too ashamed of being in a coalition with them,” Zarif told a news conference in Tehran Monday.

“They brought this situation upon themselves, with lawbreaking, by creating tensions and crises.”

Tension is soaring after the Trump administration stepped up a U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.

Asked on Monday about reports that he had been invited to meet Trump in the White House, Zarif said he had turned it down despite the threat of sanctions against him.

“I was told in New York I would be sanctioned in two week unless I accepted that offer, which fortunately I did not,” said the Iranian minister.

The New Yorker magazine reported on Friday that Senator Rand Paul met Zarif in the U.S. on July 15 and had Trump’s blessing when he extended an invitation to the Iranian minister to go to the White House.

The U.S. imposed sanctions against Zarif on Wednesday, targeting any assets he has in the U.S. and squeezing his ability to function as a globe-trotting diplomat.

The U.S. has struggled to gain support for the coalition from European and Asian allies, who fear it would further stoke tensions with Iran. European countries are believed to be concerned about being dragged into a possible conflict. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, who support U.S. policy against regional foe Iran, have called on the international community to safeguard maritime trade and security of global oil supplies.

So far, only Britain has officially said it would join the mission to protect merchant ships after Iran seized a British-flagged vessel.

The U.S. says the planned coalition’s mission, Operation Sentinel, is to guarantee freedom of navigation in the strategic Gulf waters.

Iran says securing the Strait, the world’s most important oil artery, should be left to Iran and other regional countries.

China might escort its ships in Gulf

China might escort Chinese commercial vessels in Gulf waters under a U.S. proposal to secure oil shipping lanes following attacks on tankers, its envoy to the United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday.

“If there happens to be a very unsafe situation we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels,” Ambassador Ni Jian told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.

“We are studying the U.S. proposal on Gulf escort arrangements,” China’s embassy later said in a text message.

The Chinese ambassador said the agreement could lead to cooperation on tackling terrorism and intelligence sharing, adding that further discussions would take place.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a June 24 tweet that China, Japan and other countries “should be protecting their own ships” in the Gulf region, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

It was not clear if Washington had made an official request to Beijing, which has had to tread softly in the Middle East due to its close energy ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

China has traditionally played a small role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy despite its reliance on regional oil, but has increased its profile under President Xi Jinping.

We have the position that all disputes should be sorted by peaceful means and by political discussions, not through military actions, said Ni.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan met President Xi during a visit to Beijing last month. During the visit, the two sides signed a military and defense cooperation deal.

China, which has a military base in Djibouti, has participated in regional escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast as part of a UN Security Council anti-piracy mandate.

Britain joins US naval mission in Gulf

Britain is joining the U.S. in the U.S.-planned naval mission in the Gulf to protect international shipping, following a series of tanker seizures by the Iranian military, in a move reflecting the escalating security crisis in the region.

Two Royal Navy warships already in the area will be working alongside two U.S. ships to accompany vessels through the Straits of Hormuz, which carries 20 per cent of the world’s oil supplies.

Whitehall officials insisted the mission will not remain under U.S. control and, in time, will transition to one with European command in which the UK has offered to lead one of the Maritime Task Groups.

The new government under Boris Johnson will not change its stance towards Iran and will back, not follow, Donald Trump’s administration.

U.K. continues to stand by Iran’s agreement with international powers, they stressed, and will not follow the U.S. in imposing sanctions against Iran.

No other European power, however, has joined the U.S.-UK naval plan so far and the only other European warship in the waters, a French frigate, will continue to operate autonomously.

Talks with European allies

The U.K. government sources stated that talks have been held with a number of European allies and a number have expressed an interest in joining a future European commanded operation.

But some Western states, including France and Germany, have expressed unwillingness to join a task force led by the Americans.

The U.K. decision to join the mission comes three weeks after a British flagged tanker, Stena Impero, was taken over by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. That followed the capture of an Iranian owned tanker, Grace 1, by Royal Marines off Gibraltar. Iran has repeatedly complained about the British seizure of Grace 1 and demanded the release of its crew and cargo.

Two British war ships – the destroyer HMS Duncan and frigate HMS Montrose – will continue to accompany UK-flagged and international shipping and two U.S. cruiser-destroyers, stationed at each end of the Straits of Hormuz, will protect British ships when called upon.

The two countries will operate, for the time being, under different rules of engagement.

Ben Wallace, the UK defense secretary, said: “The deployment of the Royal Navy assets is a sign of our commitment to our UK-flagged vessels and we look forward to working alongside the U.S. and others to find an international solution to the problems in the Strait of Hormuz.”

Dominic Raab, the UK foreign secretary, said: “Our aim is to build the broadest international support to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, as protected under international law. Our approach to Iran has not changed. We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal.”

Speaking at news conference in Dubai, Zarif has accused Britain of collaborating with the US in “economic terrorism”.

Israel joins US-led anti-Iran coalition?

A report from Ynet News said:

Israel has reportedly volunteered intelligence and assistance in “other unspecified fields” to the U.S.-led coalition against Iran after bonding with the Emirates over a shared opposition to Tehran’s influence in the Persian Gulf.

Israel and the UAE have reached “substantial agreements” regarding the “Iranian threat”, Israeli foreign minister Yisrael Katz told a closed session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.

Katz said he has instructed the ministry to include Israel in the U.S.-led “policing” mission, adding that participating in the initiative will improve its relationship with the Gulf Arab states.

Katz warned last month that Israel must be ready to strike Iran in the case of any “mistaken calculation,” piling on the pressure after an Iranian official warned that a US attack would mean “only half an hour will remain of Israel’s lifespan.”

In March, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu suggested the Israeli Navy might take action to block Iranian “covert oil smuggling” routes and called on the international community to combat any attempts by Iran to evade US sanctions, though no official moves in that direction have been made.

Israeli intelligence was reportedly behind the U.S. decision to fill the Persian Gulf with military assets, starting back in May.

A carrier strike group, a bomber task force, several missile batteries, and thousands of soldiers have been deployed to the region.

The U.S. has had trouble drumming up support for its “maritime policing” initiative in the Persian Gulf.

Australia is yet to join

Australia has yet to respond to Washington’s invitation to join the anti-Iran club, while Germany has declined to sign on, seeking to avoid further escalation in the region and warning against trying to find a “military solution” to the standoff.

U.S. appears to be seeking a pretext to start Gulf war, warns Moscow

The U.S. appears to be seeking a pretext for war in the Persian Gulf, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern at Washington’s efforts to build up a coalition capable of deploying naval assets to the region.

Russia is deeply worried about recent developments in the Gulf, which risk igniting “a large-scale military confrontation,” said a statement by the foreign ministry.

The statement said the U.S. is adding fuel to a smoldering conflict, and is now building up “a naval coalition” tasked with piling military pressure on Iran.

The seizure by the UK of an oil supertanker off the Gibraltar coast has also inflamed the situation, it added.

The U.S. raising the stakes in the Gulf is aimed at winning public support at home, ahead of the coming 2020 elections, the ministry maintained.

The statement slammed the “vicious practice” of risking civilian lives in other countries – as well as the lives of own service members – “in pursuit of ratings or electoral success.”

“There was no need to create any coalitions for safeguarding them until the Americans started to stir up tension,” said statement.

The statement comes as the US and the U.K. attempt to assemble a coalition to protect maritime shipments in and around the strategic Strait of Hormuz.




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