TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran is the “only power” that can secure the oil-rich Gulf, a Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday, adding that the reinforced US navy presence in the waterway was causing regional instability.

“The only power which can provide for the security in the region is the Islamic Republic of Iran and the world is slowly grasping this issue,” said Admiral Ali Fadavi, the Guards’ top naval chief, quoted by the website of the Bushehr provincial governor’s office (ostb.ir).

Tehran has often denounced the deployment of “foreign forces,” especially US ones, in the Gulf. However, its leaders usually assert that “the region’s countries” must jointly ensure security. Fadavi’s reported comments were unusual in asserting that Iran, alone, should be the Gulf’s guardian. Fadavi’s comments were made ahead of September 16-27 war games the United States and 20 other nations are to hold near the Gulf.

The exercises will test abilities to clear waters of mines - a tactic the United States fears Iran could use to impede oil tanker traffic in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Gulf. Iran has threatened to block that chokepoint if sanctions prevent it exporting its own oil, or if it is subject to air strikes that Israel has threatened to unleash to damage its nuclear facilities.

Washington has warned Tehran that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a “red line” - grounds for US military action.

Two US aircraft carriers are already in or near the Gulf, with a third on the way, a greater-than-normal show of US naval might in the region.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that Gulf Arab states accusing Iran of meddling in their internal affairs are trying to deflect attention from civil movements protesting for more rights. “Repeating these claims will not change the realities in the region,” Ramin Mehmanparast said in a statement relayed by Iranian media.

“These kind of claims are old and have no use, and rather it is more about escaping responding to the social demands of the people than being based on realities,” he said.

The GCC also again voiced its backing of the UAE in a dispute with Iran over three Gulf islands claimed by both countries.

Mehmanparast dismissed the island issue, saying: “The islands of Abu Musa, and Greater and Lesser Tunbs are inseparable parts of the Islamic Republic of Iran and will remain forever Iranian.”