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Iran warned to brace for international coalition of warships – ‘Tensions are up’

THE US proposal to establish an international coalition of warships to protect shipping in the Gulf “could well be an idea”, claimed Maritime Security Head Jakob Larsen.

Downing Street raised concerns over Iran’s threats to disrupt shipping in the region after HMS Montrose drove off Iranian patrol boats attempting to impede the progress of a British tanker. Jakob Larsen, Head of Maritime Security, BIMCO, confirmed establishing an international coalition of warships to send to the Gulf “could well be an idea”.

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Mr Larsen told BBC News: “Tensions are up with the latest developments yesterday, with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard trying to intercept the British tanker.

“But I think it’s also clear to everybody that there’s also a clear bilateral dimension here, that this is very much a UK-Iranian question.

“To the question about the US proposal to establish an international coalition of warships to protect shipping in the gulf, we have said that could well be an idea.

“There are many ways to do that and there’s just not one recipe for how to establish a coalition.

“It might well be that individual countries will deploy to the gulf area and just have some loose coordination. And that could also work, we’ve seen the value of navalist corps.

“So yesterday with the intervention of HMS Montrose, I think it was clear for all that this particular intervention actually helped de-escalate a potentially very dangerous situation.”

The UK acted on Friday to bring forward plans to dispatch Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region to relieve Montrose, PA understands.

Tensions rose after an Iranian tanker was seized off Gibraltar in an operation involving Royal Marines.

The vessel was suspected of violating EU sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian oil to Syria.

The US has said it will move ahead with plans to build a coalition of nations to monitor and deter Iranian threats against commercial shipping in the Gulf.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon has developed a specific plan and it would become clear within a couple of weeks which nations were willing to join the effort.

He said: “We’re getting ready now to move out. We have a pretty clear concept of what we want to do.” Duncan, currently in the Black Sea, will relieve Montrose in the Gulf so the Type 23 frigate can undergo planned maintenance and crew changes, the Government confirmed.

A spokeswoman said: “This will ensure that the UK alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping lane.”

Duncan, a Type 45 air defence destroyer, is considered to be one of the most advanced warships in the world, according to the Royal Navy. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain wants to “de-escalate” the “serious” situation and that sending HMS Duncan was “about our responsibility to do everything we can to protect British shipping”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “We have a responsibility to protect British shipping and, with our allies, to protect the waterways and seaways of the world, so we have to react according to the threats that we face.

“But this is not an Iran-specific issue – notwithstanding the broader tensions in the region – this is about Syria and about a breach of the sanctions against Syria, which of course is a country that Iran is active in.”

Montrose was forced to act against the patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz as it attempted to “impede” the passage of BP-operated tanker British Heritage.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is thought to have been operating the patrol boats, denied the incident. The move came as police in Gibraltar arrested the captain and chief officer of Iranian supertanker Grace 1, which was detained last Thursday.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called for the release of the tanker, rejecting the allegations, as he issued strong words to the IRNA news agency.

He said: ”The documents and evidence and the contradictory remarks made by the British all indicate that London’s allegation, legally speaking, is not that significant and noteworthy unless they would want to enter into a dangerous game under the influence of the Americans with no end in sight.”

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