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Mattis warns Iran of global response if oil route is blocked

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with Pakistan Ambassador Ali Jehangir Siddiqui at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., July 30, 2018. (Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita M. Lawrence/Department of Defense)
August 02, 2018

Amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran, including back-and-forth threats between leaders, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a warning to Iran over the Strait of Hormuz.

Mattis said last week that Iran’s blockage of the Strait would be considered an “attack on international shipping,” USA Today recently reported.

“Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz,” Mattis said. “They’ve done that previously in years past.  They saw the international community put – dozens of nations of the international community put their naval forces in for exercises to clear the straits.”

“Clearly, this would be an attack on international shipping, and – and it would have, obviously, an international response to reopen the shipping lanes with whatever that took, because of the world’s economy depends on that energy, those energy supplies flowing out of there,” he added.

An estimated 18 million barrels of oil are transferred daily through the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf) and the Arabian Sea. Blocking these transfers could cause a drastic spike in energy prices around the globe.

Last month, top Iranian officials made threats to close the Strait in response to sanctions imposed by the U.S.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani 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.”

Rouhani vowed to act in retaliation if the U.S. attempted to block Iranian oil exports. Following his threats, two other military officials released their own.

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. “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.”

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.

Just last week, those threats were reinforced by yet another Iranian official, indicating that Iran hasn’t budged on its position.

Lieutenant Commander Yidallah Javani, Iran’s Political Affairs Spokesman for their Revolutionary Guards Corps, said: “When a country threatens Iran and raises the idea that it can block Iranian oil exports if it wants, then Iran’s reciprocal threat is an authentic threat.”

Iran’s threats to close the Strait are carrying more weight this week as at least 100 Iranian navy boats were spotted in the area, CNN reported. The sudden presence is due to an annual naval exercise, which is taking place earlier in the year than expected, and with a larger fleet – likely to intimidate adversaries.

Mattis also said: “Iran has simply got to find that it’s got a better path forward for its people by not being the one to export insecurity,” according to Foreign Policy.

“They’ve got to start living by the international rules. They are the exporter of instability across the region,” he added.