U.S. War With Iran Increasingly Likely Because of Washington's Strategy, Russia Says

A senior Russian diplomat has blamed the U.S. for rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, and suggested that war is increasingly likely following months of deteriorating relations.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters Thursday that the diplomatic standoff between Washington and Tehran threatens to boil over into armed conflict, state news agency Tass reported.

"The situation is very alarming," Ryabkov said. "We can see that, in fact, the risk of a direct conflict has risen to such an extent that it is getting harder to predict future developments," he added.

Ryabkov placed the blame for the tense situation on the U.S. "The reason is clear: Washington purposefully seeks to raise tensions [around Iran]," the diplomat said.

The diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Iran began when President Donald Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The other signatories—the U.K., France, Germany, China, Russia and the European Union—remained party to the agreement. Russia, in particular, has repeatedly criticized American policy on Iran, accusing it of "warmongering."

The JCPOA imposed strict limits on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of punitive sanctions. But Trump, who was repeatedly critical of the Obama-era accord while on the campaign trail, decried the agreement as "horrible" and "laughable."

Strait of Hormuz Iran Statista
Strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz. Statista

Trump demanded a renegotiation of the deal, with harsher restrictions on Tehran's nuclear program and limits on the country's ballistic missile research and regional influence. The regime dismissed such demands out of hand.

In May, Trump withdrew waivers that had allowed nations to continue doing business with Iran without the risk of being sanctioned. The White House did so to try and drive down vital Iranian oil exports to zero.

A tough war of words and military posturing followed. Then, in May, oil tankers were bombed by an unknown actor off the coast of the UAE. In June, two more were bombed as they transited the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran. The White House blamed Iran for both incidents.

War once again looked possible later that month, when Iran shot down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz—through which 16.8 million barrels of oil transits each day, according to Statista. Iran claimed the aircraft was in its airspace, an assertion supported by Russia. The U.S. maintained it was in international airspace when destroyed.

This was the closest yet that the two sides came to open conflict. It later emerged that Trump ordered a retaliatory airstrike mission on Iranian targets, but stood his forces down at the last moment when told the operation could inflict up to 150 Iranian casualties.

Since then, Iran has announced that it is breaching two elements of the nuclear deal—a 300 kg (660 lbs) limit on the country's enriched uranium stockpile and a ceiling of 3.67 percent enrichment, far lower than what would be needed for a nuclear weapon.

This caused great concern in the international community, prompting Trump to warn Tehran it had "better be careful" when engaging in nuclear brinkmanship.

Russia, US, war, Iran
This file photo shows an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter above the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 10, 2019 in the Red Sea. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley/U.S. Navy/Getty