- Sputnik International
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British Navy to Accompany UK-Flagged Vessels Through Strait of Hormuz

© AP Photo / UK Ministry of DefenceBritish navy vessel HMS Montrose escorts another ship
British navy vessel HMS Montrose escorts another ship - Sputnik International
The Strait of Hormuz is the critical seaborne oil export choke point between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. According to media forecasts, citing pundits, the area could become a hot zone in a possible open confrontation between Washington and Tehran, as the latter mulls its response for the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

Several major economic powers - dependent on the clear passage in the Strait of Hormuz - have embarked on preventive measures in the event Iran closes the strait and curbs the free flow of this crucial international oil vein.

British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said he had ordered the warships HMS Montrose and HMS Defender to prepare for escort duties for all ships sailing under a British merchant flag in the Strait of Hormuz.

"The government will take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens at this time", Wallace said, cited by Reuters.

Wallace said that Washington was entitled to defend itself against a threat, after Iranian military commander Soleimani was assassinated, but urged all parties to exercise restraint.

"We urge all parties to engage to de-escalate the situation. Under international law the United States is entitled to defend itself against those posing an imminent threat to their citizens", Wallace said, cited by Reuters, adding that he had spoken with US Department of Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

Before the long-simmering US-Iran tension - caused by the Trump administration's unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal - hit a menacing low on Friday after the US military in an airstrike assassinated the top Iranian general in Baghdad, the Gulf region was already treated as a potential conflict zone.

Last year, a series of attacks on tankers in Gulf waters, and a drone attack against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, worsened the situation, with the Trump administration and its allies placing the blame on Iran. Tehran has refuted all accusations. 

In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, Iran's Revolutionary Guard troops march in a military parade marking the 36th anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran, in front of the shrine of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran.  - Sputnik International
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In September 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented an updated version of his plan, dubbed the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) - or the Hormuz Peace Initiative. Its goal is to form a UN-backed coalition of regional countries to ensure maritime safety and security in the wake of the increased number of anonymous attacks on oil tankers in the Hormuz Strait and the Persian Gulf. Rouhani coined it as a rightful alternative to a US-proposed military coalition. The Iranian leader noted that the protection of maritime routes in the Middle East should be carried out only by local forces.

In the wake of a dramatic new turn of the events in the Middle East, unequivocal threats from Iranian leadership vowing "revenge" for the assassinated general and a US full combat preparedness to retaliate, have cast doubt on Rouhani's HOPE initiative to succeed.

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