Abbas Araghchi. Photo: Press TV

The situation in the Middle East has become more tense as Iran has announced that it will break the limit on uranium enrichment that was set in the nuclear deal. Although US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have stated that they do not intend to seek a war with Iran, they have also made it clear that they will never allow Iran to possess a nuclear arsenal.

It is obvious that Iran’s decision to exceed the enrichment limit set by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an attempt to sway European countries to its side and push the United States back into the nuclear deal. What worries Europe and Russia is that the situation may spiral out of control.

Russia seemed to be concerned about the breaching of the limit when on July 11 Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow had repeatedly called on Iran not to upgrade its arsenal in violation of the nuclear deal.

In addition, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi stated that his country would reduce its obligations under the nuclear deal every 60 days if the other signatories to the JCPOA cannot meet Iran’s demands. Things may begin to go downhill from here.

Early this month, the British Marine Corps and Gibraltar law enforcement seized an Iranian tanker that the British said had violated European Union sanctions against Syria by shipping oil from Iran to a refinery in Syria. Tehran then threatened to seize a British tanker if the Iranian ship was not released.

On July 10 when the UK’s tanker British Heritage entered the Strait of Hormuz, three boats belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) approached the ship at high speed and demanded that it enter Iranian territory. Royal Navy frigates nearby issued a warning that dispersed the boats and allowed the tanker to continue its journey.

A day before the British Heritage incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran during an inspection of an air base in his country that deploys F-35 fighters. He said the new F-35 stealth squadron could reach Tehran. Netanyahu believes that if Iran exceeds the enrichment limit it could possess nuclear weapons within a year. He also said that if needed, the F-35s would not hesitate to enter Iran and eliminate any nuclear facility.

Geopolitics aside, the US has been trying to subdue the Iranian economy by various means. The US has announced the objective to form a maritime alliance with the aim of “ensuring freedom of aviation in the Straits of Hormuz and Mandeb.” Basically, the alliance would be tasked with safeguarding merchant vessels while preventing Iran from taking any “hostages.”

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Washington was in contact with nations that have “political will” to support the alliance’s initiative. Observers and analysts stress that as the Pentagon builds a “global consensus” against Tehran, it may be only a matter of time before things get truly ugly.

This article was first published on and was translated by Kamaran Malik.

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