Russia has warned that increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf could lead to a total confrontation as the United States and Iran argue over competing allegations regarding the abolition of each other’s drones and other unrest.
President Donald Trump first revealed on Thursday that the wasp-class amphibious attack ship USS Boxer had “taken defensive action against an Iranian drone that had closed at very close range, about 1000 yards, ignoring several calls for withdrawal and threatening the safety of the ship and its crew”. The President said that “the drone was immediately destroyed” and called for international support against Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Russia, which has joined China, the European Union, France, Germany and the United Kingdom to continue to support a nuclear agreement with Iran that was abandoned last year by the Trump government, has repeatedly called on both sides to de-escalate, blaming the US in particular for an increasingly serious situation in the region. On Friday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow had “taken note” of Trump’s recent remarks.
“The concentration of workers and materials from different countries in the Persian Gulf region is so high that all incidents are possible. The most important thing is to prevent the escalation scenario,” said Ryabkov, according to the Russian state news agency Tass. “We see once again that the situation is not only explosive. It is afflicted with an outbreak of conflict.”
Iran has denied losing the drone, and Tehran’s envoy to the United Nations even joked on Friday that the US may have taken out its own device. The Revolutionary Guards then released recordings on Friday allegedly showing the unmanned air system in action and unscathed while monitoring the USS boxer and five other US warships in the region.
Trump said Friday, however, that there was “no doubt” that the U.S. had shut down the Iranian drone, and his national security advisor John Bolton also said there was “no question” about it. Trump also told reporters that he was not concerned about the possibility of a collision because the US has the “biggest” and “deadliest ships”.
“We hope for their own sake that they do nothing stupid,” Trump said. “If they do, they will pay a price as if no one has ever paid a price before.”
The news came less than a month after the Revolutionary Guards launched an ultra-modern, high-altitude U.S. Navy drone that also flies in the Persian Gulf. The Pentagon argued that the device remained in international airspace, while Iran claimed that the device entered its sovereign territory, a narrative later supported by Russian security chief Nikolai Patrushev.
Russia was not alone when it called for calm in the region. After Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered to ratify a nuclear treaty protocol that would allow nuclear inspections ahead of time in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang called on Washington to “respond positively, abandon the false practices of extreme pressure on Iran, not hinder the implementation of comprehensive agreements, respect the legitimate rights and interests of all parties, and create conditions for resolving common concerns based on mutual respect and equal dialogue”.
Only a few hours after the Revolutionary Guards published the surveillance material, they announced that they had also confiscated the British-flagged oil tanker Steno Impero for not specifying “non-compliance with laws and regulations” in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship is said to have been transported ashore to be prepared for “legal procedures and necessary inspections”.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to take action against the UK’s seizure of the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar, which has been accused of attempting to transport oil to Syria – an apparent violation of EU sanctions. The US had previously accused the Revolutionary Guards of trying to conquer the British heritage earlier this month, only that they were expelled by the UK’s HMS Montrose frigate’s dukedom class.
Iran has different every involvement in the incident or in two series of attacks on merchant ships