Jeremy Hunt, in what may be his last act as foreign secretary, has unveiled a plan to build a European-led maritime force to protect ships in the Strait of Hormuz from Iranian attack.
The desire seems to be for this initiative to co-ordinate with a US push to create a coalition to provide escorts to international vessels transiting through the region but – significantly – for it to be a separate entity.
Keeping Washington at arms-length will doubtless make it easier for European powers like France and Germany to sign up as it would not mean direct alignment with President Donald Trump on an issue related to Tehran.
This is important because, unusually for a big global issue, Europe has been at odds with the United States on Iran ever since President Trump withdrew his country from a nuclear deal between the regime and other world powers last year and re-imposed sanctions.
London, Paris and Berlin as well as the wider European Union still support the deal as the best way to stop the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons. They oppose the US policy of maximum economic pressure aimed at forcing Tehran back to the negotiating table.
Iran is accused of responding to this pressure by launching attacks against international tankers in the Gulf – a charge that it denies.