Rouhani asks West to leave Persian Gulf as tensions heightened
Iran’s president on Sunday called on Western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran, criticising a new US-led coalition patrolling the region’s waterways as nationwide parades showcased the Islamic Republic’s military arsenal.
Hassan Rouhani separately promised to unveil a regional peace plan at this week’s upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations, which comes amid heightened Mideast tensions following a series of attacks, including a missile-and-drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.
The US alleges Iran carried out the September 14 attack on the world’s largest oil processor in the kingdom and an oilfield, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War. While Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran”.
For its part, Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.” That’s as it has begun enriching uranium beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the US unilaterally withdrew from over a year earlier.
Rouhani spoke from a riser at the parade in Tehran, with uniformed officers from the country’s military and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard beside him. The cleric later watched as marching soldiers, carrying sub-machine guns and portable missile launchers, drove past as part of ‘Holy Defence Week’, which marks the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980.
Rouhani said Iran was willing to “extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood” to Persian Gulf nations and was “even ready to forgive their past mistakes”.
“Those who want to link the region’s incidents to the Islamic Republic of Iran are lying like their past lies that have been revealed,” the president said. “If they are truthful and really seek security in the region, they must not send weapons, fighter jets, bombs and dangerous arms to the region.”
Rouhani added that the US and Western nations should “distance” themselves from the region.
“Your presence has always been a calamity for this region and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region,” he said.
He said Iran’s plan would focus on providing security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman “with help from regional countries”. Iran has boosted its naval cooperation with China, India, Oman, Pakistan, and Russia in recent years.
The US maintains defence agreements across the Persian Gulf with allied Arab nations and has tens of thousands of troops stationed in the region. Since 1980, it has viewed the region as crucial to its national security, given its energy exports. A fifth of all oil traded passes through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The US plans to send additional troops to the region over the tensions.
The parades and manoeuvres Sunday appeared aimed at projecting Iranian strength, with naval vessels, submarines and armed speedboats swarmed across the Persian Gulf, and troops showed off land-to-sea missiles capable of targeting the US Navy. Commandos fast-roped down on to the deck of a ship, resembling Iran’s July seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker.