(Persia Digest) - Former Director General for the Middle East at the Iranian Foreign Ministry believes: “Europe has decided to form its own naval coalition independent of the US in the Persian Gulf to avoid siding with US sanctions policy against Iran and focus on providing innocent passage for European ships in the region.”

Following US measures to set up a military coalition for the protection of navigation around Iran’s territorial waters, Britain announced that it will not join the US coalition, but will work with European countries for a European naval coalition in the Persian Gulf. France, Italy, and Denmark have already declared their support for the UK plan.

What are the distinctions between these two coalitions?

Former Director General for the Middle East at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ghasem Mohebali told Persia Digest (PD) in an interview: “These two coalitions are different in their objectives and implementation. The US intends to pressurize Iran to force Tehran into bilateral negotiations for a new nuclear deal. But the Europeans want to keep the JCPOA and their objective is not necessarily to pressurize Iran. The EU is only seeking innocent passage for its tankers in the Persian Gulf.”

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He added: “They also differ in their implementation methods. Apart from navigation security, the US will probably inspect ships destined for Iranian ports and only allow goods through which have not been sanctioned by them.”

Mohebali reiterated: “The European plan most probably does not include this. Their preference is to establish trade with Iran. Their naval presence in the Persian Gulf will be limited to protecting their own ships rather than implementing US sanctions. The same policy is also pursued by other Asian countries such as India and China.”

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In answer to whether there is a rift between the US and Europe in countering tensions in the Persian Gulf, the former high-ranking Iranian diplomat answered: “The EU wants to show a policy independent of the US. But whether this can happen in practice remains to be seen. This cannot be regarded strictly as a rift and face-off. But there are differences between Western countries which can be resolved with discussions.”

He continued: “Iran’s performance is also important. If it is unable to differentiate between these issues it may bring Western countries closer together. Recent developments have inflicted heavy damages on countries such as Iran and Iraq whose only access to free waters is through the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.”

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