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Trouble in the Gulf as US-Iran dispute threatens to escalate into serious conflict

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20.05.2019

The last thing the world needs at a moment of significant trade tensions between the United States and China is a Middle East crisis that would further imperil global growth.

Yet this is what is threatening in the Persian Gulf, where the US and its Arab allies are edging towards a showdown with Iran in a contested waterway through which 20% of the world’s tradeable oil passes daily.

In coordination with its Arab allies, notably Saudi Arabia, and with Israel, the US is ratcheting up pressure on Iran to wind back its support for what it terms “bad actors” in the region.

This includes Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, radical groups in the Palestinian territories, including Hamas, the Houthis in Yemen, and disaffected anti-regime elements in the Gulf.

While the US denies it is seeking to bring about regime change in Iran, this clearly is its hope.

Conflict is not inevitable, but risks are elevated by combative talk – and actions – from a Washington that seems bent on engaging in the sort of brinkmanship that threatens more serious conflict in a region already on edge.

Read more: Is a war coming between the US and Iran?

Washington’s deployment of an aircraft carrier battle group and B-52 bombers in the Gulf region is amplifying concerns.

President Donald Trump is not helping; to the contrary.

On one hand, he invites Iran’s leaders to talk. On the other, he warns of that country’s annihilation.

This sort of bombast, the antithesis of wielding a big stick and talking softly, coincides with tightening US sanctions that are doing significant damage to Iran’s........

© The Conversation