The Iranian Navy commander has called for an end to the presence of extra-regional forces, especially those of the United States, in the Persian Gulf, saying they have only created instability in the region.
“While the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman are a safe and stable region, in recent years we have witnessed increased insecurity in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, and that’s why we do not understand the [reason for] the presence of coalition forces in the Persian Gulf. We believe that the main purpose of their presence is to undermine dialogue between the effective [regional] navies,” Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Wednesday.
He made the remarks in a meeting with Chief of Staff of the French Navy Admiral Pierre Vandier on the sidelines of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) held in Réunion island, an overseas region of France located in the Indian Ocean.
The senior commander said that Iran is closely monitoring movements of foreign forces in the region, adding, “Today, a number of American and European vessels, as well as French ones, are present in the Persian Gulf region, but we monitor and keep a watchful eye on all their movements and vessels, even from a far distance.”
He reiterated that security of any maritime domain could only be provided by countries of that geography.
Iran protests the presence of EU vessels as well as the American ones near its shores, Khanzadi said, adding, “We believe that such uncalled-for security combinations do not enhance collective security and should be suspended.”
For his part, the French commander praised Iran’s performance during its presidency of the IONS summit and called for increased communication and interaction between the Iranian and French Navies towards reducing tensions in the region.
He said former US president Donald Trump had called on Washington’s allies to send forces to the region to pile up pressure on Iran but the French government slightly backed down from the US policy.
He argued that European countries had to be present in the Persian Gulf region “to ensure the security of the region” but stressed that “we were not present in any of the US operations.”
France and Europe seek security without conflict or tension, he said, adding, “We are still in contact with American forces, and we would like to be in contact with you.”
The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) is a forum designed to increase maritime security cooperation, discuss regional maritime issues, and promote friendly relationships among the member states.
It has 24 member nations and eight states with observer status.
The symposium was first held in 2008 with India as host.
Tensions between Iran and the United States escalated under the Trump administration over a series of issues including Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and major powers in 2015 and its dispatching of further military equipment to the West Asia region.
The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), a US-led military coalition in the Persian Gulf, officially launched its operations early in November 2019 supposedly seeking to protect shipping lanes near Iranian territorial waters.
Although a number of US allies joined the coalition aimed at countering what it called the “Iran threat," the so-called coalition did not win support from other allies, which prompted Washington to backtrack on its earlier bid.
In a flip-flop, the Trump administration said later that the coalition was not aimed at countering the Islamic Republic and a top Pentagon official said the coalition was to be less operational and more geared toward increasing surveillance capabilities.
“The goal is to increase maritime domain awareness and surveillance capabilities in the region to dissuade malign action,” explained Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the most senior policy officials at the Pentagon at the time.