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US arms sales turning Gulf into ‘tinderbox’: Iran’s FM

US arms sales turning Gulf into ‘tinderbox’: Iran’s FM

Agencies
Doha
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States on Monday of transforming the Gulf into a “tinderbox” with its arms sales to regional allies.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Monday, Zarif said more warships in the Gulf would only lead to more insecurity.
“The US [sold] $50bn worth of weapons to the region last year. Some of the countries in the region with less than a third of our population spend $87bn on military procurement,” Zarif told Al Jazeera in Doha.
“Let’s make a comparison; Iran spent last year $16 billion on all its military with almost one million people in the army. The UAE with a total population of one million spent $22 billion, Saudi Arabia spent $87 billion,” he continued.
“If you are talking about threats coming from the region, the threats are coming from the US and its allies who are pouring weapons in the region, making it a tinderbox ready to blow up.”
Zarif’s comments come after the US announced it is working to form a military coalition to protect commercial shipping in the Gulf following suspected attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.
Tensions have soared in recent months around the strategic waterway, where about 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through.
The friction is rooted in US President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from a landmark nuclear deal signed in 2015 between world powers and Iran.
Since then, the US has reinstated sweeping sanctions against Tehran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign and has also increased its military presence in the region.
Tensions between the two nations escalated again in May, when Washington accused Iran of sabotaging tankers in the shipping route, allegations denied by Iran.
In June, Iran downed a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile.
Iran says the drone was in its airspace, but Washington says it was in international skies.
Zarif said the presence of US and foreign naval fleet never produced “security”.

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