Tehran sees ‘hostile message’ in deployment of joint European fleet to Persian Gulf

As Tehran and London are locked in a row over tanker seizures, Britain’s proposal to send an EU naval mission to the Persian Gulf will only increase the ongoing tensions, an Iranian government spokesperson warned.

The idea of deploying a European fleet to patrol the Persian Gulf “sends a hostile message” and is “provocative and will increase tensions,” Ali Rabiei said on Sunday, as cited by Fars News Agency.

Security in the region should be maintained by the Gulf nations themselves, not foreign powers, he stressed.

Tensions between Iran and the UK began escalating on July 4, when the British Royal Marines and Gibraltar police seized the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1 off the southern coast of Spain. Officials in London said the ship was suspected of transporting oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Tehran denied any wrongdoing.

On July 19, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz, which it said violated maritime rules.

These incidents prompted Tehran and London to accuse each other of “piracy.”

On Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for a combined European naval mission to be sent to ensure the safety of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that Berlin will consider joining the mission once there is “clarity” over its form. France, Italy, and Denmark have also reportedly expressed interest in joining.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused foreign policy hardliners in Washington of trying to push London into a conflict with Iran “in hopes of dragging it into a quagmire.” On Saturday, he warned US officials against touting the prospects of a limited military action against Tehran. “Short war with Iran is an illusion,” he said.