07:11 GMT07 March 2021
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    The comments by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stem from a United States' plan to build an international maritime coalition to patrol the Persian Gulf against a professed threat from Tehran.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused the United States and its allies of turning the Persian Gulf region into a "matchbox ready to ignite", according to Reuters, citing the diplomat's interview with Al Jazeera television.

    The Gulf waterway "is narrow, it will become less safe as foreign (navy) vessels increase their presence in it", the Qatar-based TV channel cited him as saying.

    "The region has become a matchbox ready to ignite because America and its allies are flooding it with weapons", Zarif said.

    Iran's top diplomat, who has recently been sanctioned by the US, previoulsy said that Washington had failed to create an allied naval mission because "countries that are its friends are too ashamed of being in a coalition with them".

    His interview follows a similar remark by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy Commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, who insisted that the security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz was the elite unit's responsibility, and that they did not need the presence of foreigners in the region.

    Tangsiri has, likewise, addressed Israel's reported intention to join a US-proposed naval initiative in the Gulf to ensure security of navigation routes there, saying that it would result in war and confrontation in the region.

    Meanwhile, IRGC Commander-in-Chief Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami has dismissed the US-led anti-Iran mission as the "coalition of demons", warning that Israel's potential involvement would jeopardise the Jewish state's very existence.

    The United States has proposed to set up an international maritime coalition, dubbed Operation Sentinel, to police the Persian Gulf and nearby straits in the aftermath of several "sabotage attacks" on oil tankers there that were immediately blamed on Tehran despite its consistent denials.

    A handout photo made available by the Norwegian shipowner Frontline of the crude oil tanker Front Altair during the firefighting of the fire onboard the ship in the Gulf of Oman

    Washington has already invited a number of European states, as well as Japan, Australia, and South Korea, among other nations, to join its mission, which it claims is aimed at securing navigation routes for vessels.

    Already existing tensions in the Gulf were further exacerbated in May when four oil tankers — two Saudi, one Norwegian, and one Emirati — were allegedly attacked near the UAE port of Fujairah. The following month, two other vessels — Japanese and Norwegian — were targeted in a similar incident in the Gulf of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz.

    In July, the IRGC seized a UK-flagged oil tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz over alleged violations of martime rules. The vessel's detention came a few weeks after Gibraltar's authorities seized an Iranian supertanker with the assistance of UK Royal Marines, accusing it of delivering oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Tehran, which denied the allegations, later stressed that the Stena Impero seizure was not a retaliatory move.

    Strait of Hormuz, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), IRGC, foreign minister, Persian Gulf, maritime, coalition, USA, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran
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