Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that threats in the region are coming from the US and its Western allies which are pouring weapons in the region, making it a “tinderbox ready to blow up”.
Zarif, who traveled to Qatar to meet the Persian Gulf Arab country’s officials, made the comments in an interview with Al Jazeera on Monday.
"The US [sold] $50b worth of weapons to the region last year. Some of the countries in the region with less than a third of our population spend $87bn on military procurement. Let's make a comparison, Iran spent last year $16b on all its military with almost one million people in the army”, Zarif said.
"The UAE with a total population of one million spent $22b, Saudi Arabia spent $87b. If you are talking about threats coming from the region, the threats are coming from the US and its allies who are pouring weapons in the region, making it a tinderbox ready to blow up," Zarif added.
US military coalition
The Iranian foreign minister also referred to recent US efforts to form a military coalition in the Persian Gulf to protect shipping from what it calls an Iranian threat.
He said that more warships in the Persian Gulf would only lead to more insecurity.
Zarif's comments came amid soaring tensions between Iran and the United States following Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and its recent military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
"This is a tiny body of water and the more foreign naval vessels you have in this body [of] water the less secure it is for everybody. Based on experience, the presence of US and foreign naval fleet in the Persian Gulf has never produced security”, the Iranian top diplomat told Al Jazeera.
"We have sad memories of a US ship downing an Iranian airliner in 1988 [and] killing 290 passengers. We believe the best the Americans can do for protection of maritime navigation is to just leave people alone. Don't interfere, this is a hostile act against Iran and I don't believe any other impact other than insecurity," Zarif added.
The US announced the formation of the military coalition in the Persian Gulf after several oil tankers were targeted in the strategic waterway and the Sea of Oman last month. However, it has so far failed to convince its allies to join the coalition.
On June 30, the US officially asked Germany to participate – alongside Britain – in the coalition, a request that was declined by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas a day later.
Germany is, however, not Washington’s only European ally to have been unwilling to be part of its naval force. France have also been reluctant to join the mission. In Asia, Japan also says is not interested to join the coalition.
However, Israel, the US greatest ally in the Middle East, has announced that it will join the US coalition.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy Commander on Sunday reacted to the news, warning that any Israeli presence in the Persian Gulf may result in a war in the region, and the responsibility for the consequences of such illegal presence lies with the US and the UK.
On Monday, the Iranian foreign minister held talks with his Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in the Arab country, which hosts one of the biggest US military bases in the Middle East.
Military coalition failure in advance
During the meeting, Zarif strictly blasted the idea of foreign military presence in the Persian Gulf, saying that, “Military coalitions are failures in advance”.
Zarif said the responsibility for securing the Persian Gulf rested totally with the regional states, not foreign forces, and underscored the Islamic Republic’s role in maintaining regional peace and stability.
On Sunday, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani who called Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to congratulate the Eid al-Adha, also said measures taken by some extra-regional countries, especially the US, in the Persian Gulf region only serve to render the region’s problems more complicated and make it appear less secure in the eyes of the world.
"Iran attaches high importance to maintaining and consolidating security in the Persian Gulf region, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman, and spares no effort in this regard, because it believes that maintaining this security will ensure development and interests of regional people," Iran's president said.
The Iranian president underscored that stability and security in the Persian Gulf can be realized through cooperation and joint security initiatives among all littoral states, saying, "Historical experience has shown that foreign intervention will only heighten tensions and make conditions in this region more complicated."