Britain Sending Warship to Gulf to Protect its Interests

Wednesday, 17 July, 2019 - 18:30
Asharq Al-Awsat

Britain is sending its HMS Kent warship to the Gulf to protect its interests and ensure freedom of navigation after tensions with Iran, the Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday, after earlier saying that the mission was routine.

Iran has vowed to respond to what it calls Britain’s “piracy” over the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar.

On Tuesday, the ministry called the frigate’s deployment long-planned, but on Wednesday it said that details had been mixed up with those of support ship RFP Wave Knight.

“We regret the information regarding the pre-planned deployment of RFP Wave Knight has been conflated with the deployment of HMS Kent to the Gulf,” it added in a statement.

“We remain focused on ensuring de-escalation in the region and will act appropriately to protect UK interests and ensure freedom of navigation,” it said.

“The deployment of HMS Kent to the Gulf later this year, to ensure we have a ship at sea, reflects just that,” it added.

Relations between Iran and the West are increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar this month. Britain also said last week that one of its warships had to fend off Iranian vessels seeking to block a UK-owned tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

The United States has also blamed Iran for attacks on tankers in the Gulf since May, which Tehran denies.

Tensions first started to rise when US President Donald Trump last year abandoned the major powers’ nuclear deal with Iran under which Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in return for the lifting of global sanctions crippling its economy.

Washington has since reimposed draconian sanctions to throttle Iran’s oil trade in a “maximum pressure” policy to force Tehran to agree stricter limits on its nuclear capacity, curb its ballistic missile program and end support for proxy forces in the Middle East.

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