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Iran threatens to close Strait of Hormuz shipping path over US oil sanctions

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter of the Fifth Fleet flies patrol as USS Abraham Lincoln transits through the Strait of Hormuz. February 14, 2012. (Cmdr. Daniel J. Walford/U.S. Navy)
July 09, 2018

Iran is threatening to close a major shipping channel in the Persian Gulf over oil sanctions imposed by the United States.

The Strait of Hormuz, located on Iran’s southern border, is the channel that allows passage of oil exports from the Persian Gulf. The Strait sees 30 percent of sea-traded global oil transfers annually, primarily from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.

The threats are said to have stemmed from the Trump Administration’s policy of prohibiting the import of Iranian oil until Iran changes its behaviors.

Deputy commander of Iran’s Sarollah Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, Esmail Kowsari, told Iranian media: “Any hostile attempt by the U.S. will be followed by an exorbitant cost for them,” according to Bloomberg.

He added: “If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz.”

The Revolutionary Guards are the forces who patrol the Strait of Hormuz.

Commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, also said: “[I]f Tehran were not able to export its crude oil through the Strait of Hormuz, no other country would be able to do so,” the Washington Examiner reported.

The threats were further echoed by other Iranian officials, as well as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said: “It’s an incorrect belief that all oil producers would be able to export and Iran would be the only country unable to export oil.”

“The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported while the region’s oil is exported,” Rouhani said.

“If you can do such a thing, do it and see the result,” he taunted.

Brian Hook, State Department director of policy planning, told reporters last week: “Our focus is on getting as many countries importing Iranian crude down to zero as soon as possible.”

President Trump said last week that OPEC is “manipulating” the market, driving prices above $70 per barrel. He added that OPEC needs to put out another 2 million barrels daily to lower prices.

President Trump said that King Salman of Saudi Arabia agreed to an increase in oil production to lower prices.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong remarked on Iran’s threats, saying Iran should make more efforts for stability in the Middle East.

“China consistently believes that the relevant country should do more to benefit peace and stability in the region, and jointly protect peace and stability there,” he said at a news briefing reported by Reuters.

“Especially as it is a country on the Gulf, it should dedicate itself to being a good neighbor and co-existing peacefully. China will continue to play our positive, constructive role,” he added.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is serving in the area to protect commercial ships passing through the Strait. There is said to be no other U.S. ships in the area, despite the typical presence of U.S. aircraft carriers in previous administrations.

Iran hasn’t harassed U.S. ships this year, as they regularly have in the past. However, it’s speculated that this could be caused by their plans to block the Strait.

Spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Bill Urban, said the U.S. and its allies are prepared to keep the Strait open.

“Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows,” he said.