Two U.S. Guided-Missile Destroyers Enter Persian Gulf
| Rohit – Copy Editor cum Reporter – IOP, Delhi - 17 May 2019

Two U.S. Guided-Missile Destroyers Enter Persian Gulf  

By Rohit

New Delhi, 17 May 2019: Two U.S. guided-missile destroyers entered the Persian Gulf on Thursday amid tensions between Iran and the United States on Thursday.

USS McFaul and USS Gonzalez passed through the Strait of Hormuz in the afternoon local without challenge from Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN), the military force responsible for Iran’s coastal defense and operations in the Strait of Hormuz, the defense officials confirmed according to media reports.

Earlier, the US state department has ordered the departure of "non-emergency employees" from Iraq, amid rising tensions between the US and Iraq's neighbour Iran.

Tensions have ratcheted up between the US and Iran following Washington's decision this month to try and cut Iranian oil exports to zero and to send a US aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf in response to an unspecified threat.

It was also reported on Tuesday that US investigators believed Iran or groups it supported had used explosives to damage four tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

Large holes were found in the hulls of the tankers, but no evidence has been released showing a link to Iran.

Iran on the other hand has given European countries a 60-day deadline to negotiate a new nuclear deal Tehran or it would start enriching uranium to higher levels than outlined in the current agreement.

As tensions between Washington and Tehran increase, Iraq finds itself caught between neighbouring Iran, whose regional influence has grown in recent years, and the United States.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile said that drone attacks on two oil pumping stations by Yemen's Houthi rebel movement, which is supported by Iran, had forced it to temporarily shut the main East-West Pipeline.

"There are more questions than answers right now, but it's not looking good," Eckart Woertz, an expert on Gulf security and energy markets at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, told Al Jazeera.

"The attack on the tankers and the oil pipeline must be viewed against the backdrop of a US military build-up in the Gulf and worsening relations with Iran since the US unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal."

On Wednesday, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric condemned both attacks and called for an "investigation to determine the facts" behind the tanker sabotage and for those responsible to be held to account. 

Dujarric also warned of "hardening rhetoric" in the region. 

Russia too is concerned about the growing tension in the West Asia region. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Moscow is concerned over mounting tensions and defended Iran's actions as a legitimate response to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he has been urging Iran's leadership to stick to the nuclear deal, despite the U.S. withdrawal from it.

Putin, who was meeting Austria's president in Russia's Sochi, told reporters that the 2015 nuclear accords "are coming apart" but that he has been advising Iranian leaders to adhere to them no matter what the United States does.

The Russian leader said that after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran deal with world powers, "Europe can't do anything to save it" and that if Iran begins to backtrack on its commitments, "everyone will end up blaming it all on Iran.

New Delhi and Tehran on Tuesday discussed rising tensions in the Persian Gulf and “a special financial system to augment trade and economic cooperation”.

Taking place for the first time since US sanctions on Iranian crude purchases came into effect on 2 May, the meet held between India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, in New Delhi held its own significance.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during the meet also conveyed to her Iranian counterpart that a decision regarding the purchase of Iranian crude will only take place after the country's general elections.

"External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif held constructive discussions on all bilateral issues of mutual interest. Good exchange of views on the evolving regional situation, including Afghanistan", the External Affairs Ministry's spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar, tweeted after the meeting in New Delhi.

Finally, the world’s oil supply fell last month, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday, amid rising global tensions as US sanctions on Iran tightened and Opec+ members produced less crude in line with their pact.

In its latest monthly report on the global oil market, the Paris-based IEA said that while geopolitics and industry disruptions were clouding the outlook it believes that the market balance is set to flip from surplus into deficit, a development that would favour efforts by oil producing nations to keep prices high.

Image credit - © Facebook / USS Gonzalez - DDG 66 / NewsonAIR

(Rohit is a news enthusiast and also a copywriter at IOP)

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