Iran’s president has warned that foreign forces are threatening the security of the Gulf, after the US said it was deploying troops to the region.
Hassan Rouhani said foreign forces had always brought “pain and misery” and should not be used in an “arms race”.
The US is sending more troops to Saudi Arabia after an attack on Saudi oil facilities both nations blame on Iran.
Mr Rouhani also said Iran would present a new Gulf peace initiative at the United Nations in the coming days.
This year has seen continuing tension between the US and Iran, following President Donald Trump’s abandonment of a deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the easing of sanctions.
The latest flashpoint was caused by drone and missile attacks on the Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais on 14 September.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they had carried out the attacks, but both the US and its ally Saudi Arabia – Iran’s main regional rival – said Iran was behind them, something Tehran has strongly denied.
The crisis sparked by the attacks is being dangerously inflamed by angry rhetoric. President Trump’s knee-jerk reaction was to tell the Iranians the US was “locked and loaded”. So the region braced for a US retaliatory strike.
Washington pulled back, restrained by a nervous Saudi Arabia. Instead it is sending a small detachment of what are essentially military technicians to bolster Saudi Arabia’s blatantly inadequate air and missile defences.
The move is defensive, and may not even be enough to prevent another “swarm” attack of explosive drones. Yet Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guards are interpreting it as an aggressive, almost invasive, act.
The danger now is that one side or the other misinterprets the signals from the other side of the Gulf and does something that inadvertently propels this region into a war that nobody wants.