“Americans and the British have been fanning the flames of war in the Persian Gulf region to pretend they have control over the Strait of Hormuz and the movement of vessels. Of course, we do not allow this to happen. In the meantime, we expect cooperation from our friends in China,” Rezayee said in a Sunday meeting with a senior Chinese delegation headed by Song Tao, the Head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in Tehran.
He added that Iran is not seeking war but will defend itself, while the Americans want conflict and seek to increase the tensions.
“Persian Gulf security is our security and we have to respond to their attacks and destabilizing actions in order to maintain security,” the Secretary of the Iranian Expediency Council (EC) said, adding, “We want free shipping and security in the Persian Gulf.”
“We live in the energy region of the world. Any kind of insecurity and conflict in this region would carry harm to global peace and security,” Rezayee said pointing to the new developments in the region.
In the meeting, the Iranian official expressed his appreciation to Song Tao for the good cooperation of China’s ruling party with the EC.
The EC secretary also referred to the Iranian Parliament speaker’s visit to China as indicating the start of a new phase in strategic relations between Iran and China.
He further attached great importance to the Chinese delegation’s visit to Tehran, expressing the hope that the level of the two countries’ relations would increase to a considerable extent after their visit.
He welcomed the Chinese One Belt, One Road Initiative, saying that a special role and position need to be set aside for Iran in that plan.
For his part, Song Tao said, “The mission of the delegation is to strengthen the strategic coordination and dialogue between the two countries and we are willing to confront challenges and problems together.”
“There are complicated and rapid developments happening on the international stage that have created challenges for the countries of China and Iran, but our resolve and determination is to support Iran’s legal and legitimate rights to development and progress,” Tao added.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf region began on May 12, couple of days after the US tightened its unilateral sanctions against Iran with refusing to issue new waivers for Iranian oil buyers, when 4 commercial vessels were targeted by “sabotage operations” near UAE’s territorial waters.
Israeli reports then stated that Mossad had collected material at the site of the alleged sabotage, and passed the alleged evidence to US intelligence agencies, prompting some American officials to pin the attacks on Iran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the “fabricated” claim and described the attacks as “false flag” operations aimed at accusing Iran.
Tensions entered a new chapter on June 13, concurrent with a historic visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tehran, when two vessels were suspiciously attacked near the strait of Hormuz.
The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian-owned Front Altair oil tankers were struck by explosions near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Japan’s government said both vessels were carrying “Japanese-related” cargo.
Shortly after the two tankers were hit by the explosions, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran. A day later, US President Donald Trump made a similar claim. Neither offered any evidence, and the footage that was released was said by US officials to show Iranian personnel removing an “unexploded” mine.
Iran rejected the allegations.
Experts said the explosions could have been false flags to implicate Iran at the time of the historic visit by Abe to Iran, a first of its kind in more than 40 years. Prime Minister Abe was meeting with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei when the explosions happened.
Japanese officials said Tokyo dismissed the claim by the United States that Iran attacked the two oil tankers.
Tensions reached a new peak between Iran and the US after the Trump administration decided to send an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and 1,500 troops to the Persian Gulf after the blasts, citing what it called an imminent “threat” from Iran.
A week later, Iran’s IRGC shot down an intruding American spy drone in the country’s Southern coastal province of Hormozgan.
In a statement issued early on June 20, the IRGC said the US Navy MQ4-C Triton surveillance drone was brought down by its Air Force near the Kouh-e Mobarak region — which sits in the central district of Jask County — after the aircraft violated Iranian airspace.
A month later, the US ramped up military propaganda against Iran, claiming the US forces “may have brought down” a second Iranian drone, while failing to procure any evidence for bringing down the first one despite claiming to be in possession of its footage.
Iran has asserted that all of its drones are accounted for but CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie claimed in an interview with CBS News on July 23 that he was “confident” about the first one.
“We’re confident we brought down one drone; we may have brought down a second,” McKenzie said, referring to the USS Boxer’s encounter with an unmanned aircraft allegedly belonging to Iran.
McKenzie’s comments stepped up Washington’s baseless claims for which it has released no footage so far.
Moving between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, the USS Boxer is said to have used electronic measures to take down a drone that the US claims was being operated by Iran.
Iran has denied that it has lost any of its drones in a military confrontation with the US.
Commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Division Amir-Ali Hajizadeh has called Donald Trump’s claim “a lie”.
“The lie told by Trump was so big that we believed it at first that they had been able to shoot down one of our drones,” Hajizadeh noted on July 21.
Iran’s IRGC also released footage captured by an Iranian drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz and monitoring a United States Navy vessel, belying the claim.
A few hours after Trump’s allegation, Iran moved to reject his claim with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi saying in a tweet, “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else.”
National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters at the White House on July 20 that the Trump administration may release video of the incident later. But this never happened
In early July, a new phase of tensions was opened after the UK joined the US in the “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.
British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula on July 4. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria “in violation” of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the “illegal move” of London and described it as “tantamount to piracy”. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington’s bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic’s oil exports, rejecting London’s claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.
On July 16, Ayatollah Khamenei slammed Britain’s illegal seizure of the oil tanker, warning London of a pending response to the seizure of the supertanker that he referred to as a case of “piracy”.
Then in Mid-July, the IRGC naval forces seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf, according to a statement by the public relations office of the IRGC Navy’s first zone. The foreign vessel was smuggling a million liters of fuel from Iran and was seized in Iranian waters South of Lark island. Yet, a statement issued by the IRGC on Thursday denied that any other foreign ship had been seized during the last week as claimed by the western media. The statement reiterated that the ship had been seized for “smuggling fuel from Iran”, and no other reason.
Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ruled on July 19 that the Iranian tanker seized by Britain’s Royal Marines can be detained for 30 more days. The court’s decision came a day after a senior Gibraltar’s official described as “constructive” talks with Iran, raising hopes that the tanker would be released imminently.
Hours after the court’s new decision, the IRGC’s Navy impounded, a British-flagged oil tanker, Stena Impero, when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia “for failing to respect international maritime rules”.
“UK tanker ship, Stena Impero, has been detained by the vessels unit of the IRGC Navy’s First Naval Zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province for disregarding international maritime rules and regulations as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz this afternoon,” the statement by the IRGCN public relations said.
The statement added that the ship had been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormuzgan province and its control had been transferred to the Ports and Maritime Organization for further legal procedures and investigations.
A statement by Stena Impero shipping firm had announced there were 23 crew onboard the UK ship, stating that there had been no report on any harm or injury to the crew members since the vessel came under detention by the Iranian forces.
Director-General of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office in Hurmuzgan province stated that he filed a request for the seizure of the British tanker by the IRGCN after reports on its risky moves that made the vessel prone to accident.
Sources told FNA that the British ship had switched off its tracking systems in violation of maritime rules and regulations and was making an entry from the exit point of the Strait of Hormuz in the South, disregarding the established procedures that require all entries be made through the Northern pass.
Director General of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province Allah Morad Afifipour stated Saturday that the British oil tanker was seized because it ignored calls from a fishing boat after an accident in the waterway.
“The British oil tanker, Stena Impero, had an accident with a fishing boat on its way and according to the law, the reason and other issues related to the accident should be studied,” Afifipour told FNA.
He added that sailors on the damaged fishing boat had contacted the British vessel, but the tanker had ignored their calls.
“When the British vessel did not respond to the fishing vessel, they informed Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province according to the legal procedures,” Afifipour said, noting that his office had requested the Judiciary and the IRGC to stop the British tanker.
Also, the UK owned tanker, MV Mesdar, operating under Liberian flag was stopped by Iran’s naval patrols in the Strait of Hormuz on the same day after it started oil leaks in the waterway.
The ship was sent back to the international waters to continue its voyage after a short time and after it was warned to show full respect for environmental regulations and harmless navigation.
Senior military officials also rejected reports by some western media outlets claiming that the Liberian-flagged tanker had been seized, stressing that ‘Stena Impero’ was the only foreign ship under Iranian custody.
On Wednesday, Iran in a letter to the UN Security Council defended the country’s seizure of the British oil tanker, describing it as necessary to protect safety of the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran’s letter to the United Nations Security Council said that “Stena Impero” collided with a small fishing boat on July 19, and badly injured its crew, some of whom remain in critical condition.
Afterwards, instead of responding to distress calls from the boat and radio communications from Iranian authorities, the British tanker turned off its transponder and “dangerously” changed course in the direction of incoming ships, the letter read.
That is when, according to the letter, Iran’s IRGC intervened and took the ship and its crew into custody.
Tehran asserted in the letter that the seizure, which took place in accordance with international regulations, was necessary for protecting the safety and the order of maritime navigation at the Strait of Hormuz strategic choke point.
According to the letter, Iranian judicial authorities had ordered local officials to investigate the tanker’s violations, including its environmental damage as well as the extent of the damage it has done to the fishing boat and its crew.
The letter also rejected claims by the UK government in a recent letter to the UNSC, where it had claimed the IRGC forces acted illegally by approaching the Stena Impero in “Omani territorial waters”.
Iran’s permanent mission at the UN said in its letter that everything it did was aimed at upholding international law and ensuring secure navigation in the Persian Gulf.
The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran’s oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, “sabotage operations” on oil ships have intensified the turmoil in the region and the turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.