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US, UK eye Gulf buildup

This undated Ministry of Defence handout shows the HMS Duncan, a Type 45 Destroyer, which will relieve HMS Montrose in the region as Iran threatens to disrupt shipping. Iran on July 12, demanded the British navy release an Iranian oil tanker seized last week off Gibraltar, accusing London of playing a ‘dangerous game’ and threatening retribution. British media reported a second warship, the destroyer HMS Duncan, was being sent to the Arabian Gulf to operate alongside the Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose frigate and American forces, and would be there in a few days. The British Ministry of Defense refused to comment. (AP)

LONDON, July 13, (Agencies): Discussions between Britain and the United States on building up their military presence in the Gulf are ongoing, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said on Friday amid tensions with Iran. Relations between Tehran and the West have been increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar and London said the British Heritage, operated by oil company BP, had been approached in the strait between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. “We are talking to the US about building on our presence in the face of recent threats to shipping in the area,” May’s spokeswoman said on Friday.

Iran warned on Friday it would retaliate robustly in case Israel carried out attacks on the nation. The “Israeli military threats against Iran blatantly violate the United Nations charter,” said Defense Minister Amir Hatami in remarks aired by the government-run television station. UN member states are barred, according to the charter, from attacking other member countries. Iran is ready to react with might against “all aggressors,” he said.

On July 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israeli warplanes “could reach anywhere in the Middle East including Iran.” The reaction from the Iranian defense minister came hours after US President Donald Trump contacted Netanyahu discussing means for facing “Iran’s malign acts” in the Middle East. Iranian officials had threatened to destroy Israel.

The heated rhetoric coincided with mounting tension in the Gulf following a series of incidents, latest of which was a bid by Iranian gunboats to impede a British oil tanker near the strategic strait of Hormuz. Iran on Friday demanded the British navy release an Iranian oil tanker seized last week off Gibraltar, accusing London of playing a “dangerous game” and threatening retribution, while London announced it was sending a destroyer to the Arabian Gulf.

The comments from Iran’s Foreign Ministry came the day after police in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, said they arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker suspected of breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told Iranian state news agency IRNA that “the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid… the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest.”

“This is a dangerous game and has consequences,” Mousavi warned. During Friday prayers, Kazem Sedighi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened retribution. “Rest assured, Britons will soon feel the slap of the powerful hands of the Islamic Republic,” he said.

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