UK entering ‘dangerous game’ with Iran ‘will only benefit arms dealers and grandstanding politicians’

Iranian and US flags side by side
Ed Sykes

Tensions between the UK and Iran have been rising in recent days. And as foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt suggests an increase in navy spending is necessary as a result, a prominent peace activist has insisted that “only arms dealers and grandstanding politicians will benefit” if such an escalation continues.

A “dangerous game”

The recent tensions began when Royal Marines helped to seize an Iranian oil tanker in the Mediterranean on 4 July. A former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) responded by saying his country should seize a British tanker in response. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also warned of unspecified “repercussions”.

Iran has now threatened to disrupt shipping in the Persian Gulf after HMS Montrose – a Royal Navy warship in the Gulf – drove off Iranian patrol boats allegedly attempting to impede the progress of BP-operated tanker British Heritage. On Friday, the UK brought forward plans to dispatch Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region to relieve Montrose, PA understands.

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The IRGC, which is thought to have been operating the patrol boats, denied the incident. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, meanwhile, has called for the release of the seized Iranian tanker while rejecting the new allegations, saying:

The documents and evidence and the contradictory remarks made by the British all indicate that London’s allegation, legally speaking, is not that significant and noteworthy unless they would want to enter into a dangerous game under the influence of the Americans with no end in sight.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also dismissed the British account as “worthless”, saying the claims were being made to “create tension”.

Along with Montrose, the Navy has four mine countermeasure vessels and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay logistics ship in the region.

‘More warships will only add to the tension and sabre-rattling’

In a press release, UK-based pacifist network the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) criticised the current “sabre-rattling” and took aim at Jeremy Hunt in particular, urging politicians not to back his call to increase Royal Navy spending following the recent tensions.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on 11 July, Hunt promised a 25% increase in military spending if he wins the Conservative Party leadership election. He also pledged to “review” the number of vessels maintained by the Royal Navy, which is already committed to 19 destroyers and frigates. And he backed comments by retired admiral Alan West, who has used the situation to reiterate his frequently repeated call for more spending on the armed forces.

Hunt, the son of an admiral himself, preached about “the incredible menace behind Iran’s actions” and argued that:

When you look at this week’s events it shows that in recent decades we have run down the navy too much.

The UK remains the world’s seventh highest military spender. Iran reportedly invests a quarter of what Britain spends.

PPU campaigns manager Symon Hill responded to Hunt by criticising “grandstanding politicians”, saying:

Only arms dealers and grandstanding politicians will benefit if even more taxpayers’ money is thrown at the armed forces. It is naive to imagine that more warships will make us safer. They will only add to the tension and sabre-rattling, which all parties need to de-escalate.

Jeremy Hunt says that military spending is a ‘vital tool for projecting power’. How will this help people in Britain who are struggling to pay the bills, waiting months for a hospital appointment or having their benefits snatched away?

Featured image and additional reporting via Press Association

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