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Iran: European Proposal to Escort Tankers ‘Hostile,’ ‘Provocative’

A boat of Iranian Revolutionary Guard sails next to Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, at Bandar Abbas port, July 21, 2019.

“Hostile” and “provocative” is how Iran labeled a proposal to form a European coalition to escort tankers through the Persian Gulf.

"We heard that they intend to send a European fleet to the Persian Gulf, which naturally carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions," government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Sunday, according to state media.

Tensions have been mounting as Iran has become increasingly aggressive in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping lane that passes by Iranian territorial waters.

Earlier this month, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commandos descending from helicopters, with several small boats in support, took control of a British-flagged oil tanker, the Stena Impero, transiting the strait.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt labeled Tehran’s actions an “act of state piracy” and said Britain was working to create a European-led naval mission to protect ships trying to navigate the strait.

The United States has proposed building and leading a similar naval coalition in recent weeks.

Tensions between Iran and the West have risen steadily in the year since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 international accord aimed at restraining Tehran’s nuclear weapons program and reimposed economic sanctions against Iran to curb its international oil trade.

In addition to seizing the British oil tanker, Iran has also targeted U.S. assets in recent weeks.

In late June, Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone after alleging it violated Iranian airspace, a claim the U.S. denied.

The Pentagon said recently that forces aboard the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone after it “closed within a threatening range” while the ship was in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.

While numerous U.S. officials have stated that Washington does not want war with Iran, U.S. military officials have warned the risk for a miscalculation has been increasing.