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Report: Washington’s Allies Reject US-Led Persian Gulf Naval Mission

TEHRAN The United States' request to build a "coalition" against Iran in the Persian Gulf has been met with either silence or rejection, a report by The New York Times said.

The United States has been shopping for support from Asian and European allies to join its military mission in the Persian Gulf to counter Iran as tensions mount between the United States and the Islamic Republic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week called on Japan, Britain, France, Germany, South Korea, Australia and other nations to join a maritime force to patrol the Strait of Hormuz.

Many other European leaders, however, have worked to keep their distance from Trump and his policy of maximum pressure on Iran to avoid being seen as aiding that policy, according to the newspaper.

Washington previously indicated that an "international maritime security framework", known as "Operational Sentinel", was being set up, and aimed at "enhancing security" for commercial vessels operating in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Oman in the wake of recent attacks on oil tankers.

The US-led coalition idea comes in the wake of escalating military tensions in the region. In mid-May, several tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the UAE. Two more tankers carrying "Japan-related" cargo were struck off the Gulf of Oman in mid-June.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has, without providing any evidence, blamed Iran for recent mysterious attacks against oil tankers. Tehran has vehemently denied the accusation, warning regional countries about possible "false flags" by foreign players.

The US is trying to project its campaign as a bid to secure the Persian Gulf, but "the Europeans argue that Washington created the problem in the first place by trying to kill off Iran's oil exports", the paper added.

Berlin has rejected a proposal by Washington to set up a military coalition in the Persian Gulf to counter what it calls the Iran threat. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated that his country would not be joining the Americans.

Spanish El Confidencial newspaper, citing an informed diplomatic source, also reported that Madrid had "no intention of participating in a mission led by the US in Hormuz".

Japan's Mainichi newspaper cited unidentified government sources as saying that Tokyo had decided not to deploy any warship to the Persian Gulf. As its key Asian ally and a major regional naval power, Washington is keen for Japan to play a major role in its proposed maritime force.

"The refusals have underscored the divergent policies toward Iran and are aggravating distrust and resentment on both sides," The New York Times said.

The United Kingdom also announced London's plans to "put together a European-led maritime protection mission", in response to the seizure of a UK-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf.

Neither have France or Italy nor Sweden responded favorably to Britain's suggestion of a European escort force, separate from the Americans, even after Iran seized the British-flagged tanker.

In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria in violation of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US' unilateral sanctions against Iran.

Iran condemned the illegal move of London and described it as tantamount to piracy. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington's bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic's oil exports, rejecting London's claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei had slammed Britain's illegal seizure of the oil tanker, warning London of a pending response to the seizure of the supertanker that he referred to as a case of "piracy".

Then a week later in mid-July, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) impounded the British tanker ship, 'Stena Impero', as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia "for failing to respect international maritime rules.

The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran's oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, "sabotage operations" on oil ships have intensified the turmoil in the region and the turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.

Tensions mounted between Tehran and Washington last May, when Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and re-imposed harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism. The American leader and his hawkish advisers National Security Advisor John Bolton and Pompeo have since been stepping up pressure against Iranians.

European nations have resisted joining Washington's campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran as they remain committed to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which promised Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a commitment to halt its nuclear program.

The tensions saw a sharp rise on the first anniversary of Washington's exit from the deal as the US moved to ratchet up pressure on Iran by tightening its oil sanctions and sending military reinforcements, including an aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of Patriot missiles, to the Persian Gulf region. The Pentagon has also announced it was sending 1,000 additional US forces and more military resources to the Middle East.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran hit a new high in June after the US sent a number of military aircarft to the Iranian skies under a tense climate of escalating threats, forcing the IRGC Aerospace Force to shoot down one of the intruding American aircraft.

Iran has stressed that it will not be the initiator of any war, but reserves the right to self defense and will give a crushing response to any act of aggression by the United States.

Source: Fars News Agency