ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran is using its sea power in the Gulf to show it will not be cowed by Washington’s newly assertive Arab allies, prompting critics to accuse Tehran of destabilizing the region.
Iranian ships fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker which it said damaged an Iranian oil platform, causing the vessel to flee, and seized a container ship in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil route, over a debt row.
The incidents coincided with a push by Washington to reassure Gulf Arab monarchies that their interests would not be threatened by a nuclear accord that Tehran and world powers are trying to reach by the end of June.
In an escalating confrontation with Saudi Arabia over Yemen, Tehran criticized Arab states for recklessness and brutality in that country, where a Saudi-led coalition is attacking an Iranian-allied militia.
Iran has also sent an aid ship, the Iran Shahed, to the Yemeni Red Sea port of Hodaida to test a naval blockade enforced by the coalition. Several Iranian military officials have warned of war if the Iran Shahed is attacked by Saudi-led forces. It expected to reach the port by Thursday.
“Iran’s recent measures in the Strait of Hormuz have one clear message to Saudi Arabia. No one can ignore Iran’s key role,” said an Iranian official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“Whether reformist or hardliner, Iranian leaders have consensus on securing Iran’s influence in the region,” said the official.
“Gulf shipping is not as much of a priority for the U.S. as is getting a deal over stopping nuclear weapon development,” said Michael Frodl, of U.S. based consultancy C-Level Global Risks, referring to Iran’s flexing its muscles in the Gulf.
“So Iran is testing the limits.”
Full article: Iran Uses Maritime Confrontations to Project Power in Gulf (Washington Free Beacon)