18:24 GMT +320 January 2020
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    Germany’s refusal to join the US-led naval coalition to escort ships through the Strait of Hormuz underscores how the Land of the Free is losing its influence on foreign nations, Mohammad Marandi, an expert on American studies and postcolonial literature who teaches at the University of Tehran, told Sputnik.

    “I think it’s a sign of the declining influence of the US,” Marandi told Sputnik Radio’s Loud & Clear on Monday. “Britain, of course, is not an important naval power. It doesn’t have anything that the Iranians would be concerned about, but I think that under [US President Donald] Trump, the US has lost a huge amount of influence.” 

    “That doesn't mean that under [former US President Barack] Obama the US influence was benign. The US government carried out policies that are very similar to what Trump is carrying out these days. But, because of Trump's character and the way he deals with foreign issues, he has isolated the US, and therefore, other countries are being wary of cooperating with the US,” he added.

    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed on Monday that Germany would not participate in the US-led naval coalition, a move which leaves the UK as the only country that has agreed to do so. 

    Maas’ statement came after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated earlier in the day that the US had failed to create an allied naval coalition in the Persian Gulf. "Today, the United States is alone in the world and cannot create a coalition [in the Gulf]. Countries that are its friends are too ashamed of being in a coalition with them,” he pointed out.

    Tensions in the Persian Gulf surged after the UK called on Iran a couple of weeks ago to release the UK-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in response to UK forces seizing Iranian tanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4. Also last month, Iran seized an Emirati tanker in the Strait of Hormuz that it claimed was smuggling around 999,000 gallons of oil from Iran. Most recently, the IRGC seized an Iraqi boat on Sunday that was allegedly smuggling 700,000 liters of fuel.

    “Iranian fuel is heavily subsidized. There is a big market for smuggled Iranian fuel alongside all of Iran’s borders: in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Pakistan and in central Asia,” Marandi explained to host John Kiriakou.

    “Iranian gasoline is less than 10 cents a liter. So you can understand why there would be such an incentive for people to smuggle it. So, every now and then, they [Iran] do take tankers, especially since last year when the Iranian currency devalued as a result of the [US] maximum pressure [campaign] and the truly brutal and barbaric sanctions that Trump imposed on ordinary Iranians.”

    “It made smuggling more lucrative because the Iranian government has kept the price of gasoline the same as before in order to ease the pressure on ordinary Iranians, so it has increased incentive for smuggling, and therefore the government has also asked the armed forces to help the police in dealing with this problem,” Marandi continued.

    Regardless of whether other nations join the US naval coalition in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran doesn’t need another country to act as a mediator between it and the US, the professor noted.

    “France has not really been an honest broker, and Jordan is not a country that has particularly close relations with Iran … Iran doesn’t need any country to act as a medium. The Persian Gulf has been peaceful and stable, and it was only since the Americans began this maximum pressure campaign and declaring Iranian armed forces as a terrorist organization and then intruding into Iranian air space with their drone, [that] things became more or increasingly dangerous,” Marandi said.

    “I think really the only solution is for the US to back off, for the US government to start behaving in a more normal manner, and the situation will start going back to normal. As we speak, the situation is quite normal. You have hundreds of tankers and cargo ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz every day.”

    Tensions between the US and Iran increased even further last week after Zarif was sanctioned by the US. The Iranian official responded to the sanctions by noting that Washington must consider him a “huge threat” to its “agenda.” During a press conference on Monday in Tehran, Zarif said that he was sanctioned by the US after turning down an invitation to meet Trump at the White House in July.

    “Zarif was invited to go to the White House and warned if he didn’t go, he would be sanctioned. I think that no foreign minister in the world, no person who has any sense of self esteem and self decency or no government that has any respect for itself or its nation would speak to anyone under duress. So, he obviously refused, and Trump being Trump, sanctioned the foreign minister like he's sanctioned almost everyone in Iran,” Marandi told Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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