Tehran has released a statement, announcing that it intends to increase its naval presence in the Gulf of Persia, just near to the Straits of Hormuz. Not because of the US and NATO ships stationed in the area, or anything to do with the whole international dispute over its nuclear program; but rather because it wants to strengthen its authority over three small islands which the UAE are claiming to be theirs.
The dispute over the islands, Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa, which are situated just at the mouth of the Hormuz, has existed for over 40 years, between the Shi’ite Muslims in Iran, and the Sunni Muslims in the UAE.
During a ceremony, during which the number of naval defence zones patrolled by Iranian ships increased to five, Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), explained that “the security of the Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf is part of the various strategies of the naval force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The fifth zone of the Guards' naval force is one of the naval defence chains which is in particular responsible for the defence of the Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf.”
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Last month the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that Tehran was willing to risk its tenuous relationship with UAE over the dispute with the islands, although they later denied this.
Iran may claim that the increased military presence in the Gulf has nothing to do with sanctions placed against its nuclear program, but it will be interesting to see how the US naval vessels in the region react.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
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