DOHA (Dispatches) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said on Monday the United States is turning the Persian Gulf region into a "matchbox ready to ignite”, according to Al Jazeera television.
Oil tanker traffic passing through the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz has become the focus of a U.S.-Iranian standoff since Washington pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.
After mysterious explosions that damaged six tankers in May and June and Iran’s retaliatory seizure of a British-flagged tanker in July, the United States launched mission in the Persian Gulf, joined by Britain, which has escalated tensions.
Zarif, in interview remarks cited by Qatar-based Al Jazeera, said the Strait "is narrow, it will become less safe as foreign (navy) vessels increase their presence in it”.
"The region has become a matchbox ready to ignite because America and its allies are flooding it with weapons,” he said.
"The UAE with a total population of one million spent $22 billion, Saudi Arabia spent $87 billion. If you are talking about threats coming from the region, the threats are coming from the U.S. and its allies who are pouring weapons in the region, making it a tinderbox ready to blow up," Zarif added.
Zarif, who arrived on Sunday in Doha, met on Monday with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for talks to convey that message, Iranian media reported.
Qatar, which hosts one of the biggest U.S. military bases in the Middle East, is trying not to be drawn into the escalating conflict between Washington and Tehran.
Iraq cautioned on Monday that the deployment of Western forces was fueling regional tension.
"The states of the Persian Gulf can together secure the transit of ships,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Hakim said on Twitter. "Iraq is seeking to reduce tension in our region through calm negotiations...The presence of Western forces in the region will increase tension,” he said.
Al-Hakim stressed the occupying regime of Israel’s participation in such a mission was unacceptable. It’s not clear if the Zionist regime has been asked to participate.
Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has warned there's a potential for war if the occupying regime joins the so-called maritime coalition in the Persian Gulf.
Last week, Zionist FM Israel Katz said Tel Aviv wanted to join the U.S.-led mission to "protect the security of the Persian Gulf".
Iran considers the maritime coalition "illegal" and said leaders in Washington and London fabricated the incidents to legitimize their presence in the Persian Gulf.
"The United States and the United Kingdom must assume responsibility for the Zionists regime's illegal presence in the Persian Gulf waters," IRGC Navy commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said Sunday. "Any presence of the Zionist regime in the Persian Gulf waters is illegal, as it may result in war and confrontation in the region."
Last month, the IRGC seized the British tanker, Stena Impero near the Strait for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar.
The tanker dispute has tangled Britain in the diplomatic dispute between the EU’s big powers - which want to preserve the Iran nuclear deal - and the United States which has pushed for a tougher policy on Iran.
"Military coalitions are failures in advance,” Zarif told his Qatari counterpart Muhammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
Zarif said the responsibility for securing the Persian Gulf rested totally with the regional states, not foreign forces.
Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. efforts to build the coalition "continue to bear little fruit”.
The Qatari foreign minister expressed satisfaction with the quality of the "special” relations between Tehran and Doha, stressing the importance of the role they play in establishing regional peace and stability.
Separately, Zarif told the Qatari emir the Islamic Republic is impervious to the U.S. "economic terrorism," stressing that such measures taken by the United States have only stoked insecurity in the region.
"Economic terrorism has no effect on the Iranian nation and it has only made the region more insecure," he told Sheikh Tamim.
The Qatari monarch pointed to the close and brotherly relations between Iran and Qatar, underlining the need for bilateral consultations and deliberations concerning regional and international issues as well as a concerted effort to resolve problems in the region.