Containing the fire of conflict

Monday, 2019-07-15 16:18:22
 Font Size:     |        Print

NDO - With the US House of Representatives adoption of a defence-policy bill aiming at limiting President Donald Trump's use of force against Iran, the fire of conflict which might lead to a military confrontation between the US and Iran have been initially contained. In the context that the US and its allies have intensified the deployment of warships to the Gulf, the international community is hoping for diplomatic efforts to ease tensions.

The draft amendments to the annual defence-policy contain provisions that prohibit the use of federal funds for military operations against Iran without congressional consent. This shows a cautious attitude of the US MPs over any decision made in the confrontation with Iran.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated with concerns over the risk of military clashes since the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The US military deployed forces, including aircraft carriers and B-52 strategic bombers to the Middle East.

Despite the US President stating that he did not want to engage in a war with Iran, the moves from the US caused the public opinion to worry about the risks of a miscalculation, which could push the two sides into conflict.

After Iran announced the increase of its level of uranium enrichment, the US continued to put both economic and military pressure on Iran. The US is seeking ways to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so into a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off of Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks.

Marine General Joseph Dunford said the US is engaging with a number of countries to see if they can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab.

The US, as well as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have long fretted over attacks by Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in the narrow Bab al-Mandab waterway, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily through the Bab al-Mandab to Europe, the US and Asia plus commercial goods.

Although US officials had publicly discussed plans to safeguard the Strait, Dunford’s disclosure that the coalition would also seek to bolster security in the Bab al-Mandab off Yemen appeared to be a new element in the ongoing political struggle, showing that the US and its allies want to increase their presence and control in the Gulf.

The US' effort to put together a coalition to provide escort to commercial shipping in the Gulf came after London accused Tehran of deploying three military vessels to "impede the passage" of a BP tanker, the British Heritage.

The UK is sending a second warship to the Gulf amid growing tensions with Iran after Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar last week. The UK has also raised the security level for British ships in the Persian Gulf to the highest state of alert, level 3. A security level of 3 is put in place when and where the risk of an attack on a UK ship is assessed to be critical.

The US and its allies and Iran may fall into a “dangerous game” if the two continue to take steps to escalate the tensions. Ahead of the moves that threatened to disrupt the Iranian nuclear deal, French President Emmanuel Macron’s top diplomatic adviser Emmanuel Bonne left for Tehran to seek ways to restart a dialogue as well as deescalate rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear deal with world powers.

Meanwhile, the US has just decided to stop imposing sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a signal that Washington may leave the diplomatic doors open with Iran. In the context of the risk of conflict in the Gulf, any efforts and diplomatic moves to ease tensions are now necessary and welcomed by the international community.