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Iran threatens to close Strait of Hormuz shipping path after US withdraws oil waivers

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (right) during the trilateral meeting of the heads of states, guarantors of the Astana process for facilitating the Syrian peace settlement on Feb. 14, 2019. (Kremlin/Released)
April 23, 2019

Iran has again threatened to close a vital oil shipping channel, the Strait of Hormuz, after the United States’ latest move to slash Iran’s oil trade.

“If we are prevented from using it, we will close it,” head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps navy force Gen. Alireza Tangsiri told the state-run Fars News Agency, Bloomberg reported Monday. “In the event of any threats, we will not have the slightest hesitation to protect and defend Iran’s waterway.”

The threat came in response to the Trump Administration’s declaration this week that it won’t renew Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs) exemptions for China, India, Turkey, South Korea and Japan, which permit them to avoid U.S. sanctions when purchasing Iranian oil.

“This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Monday.

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“The Trump Administration and our allies are determined to sustain and expand the maximum economic pressure campaign against Iran to end the regime’s destabilizing activity threatening the United States, our partners and allies, and security in the Middle East,” Sanders added.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Moussavi shot back at the U.S. declaration, saying, “Iran considers the whole U.S. illegal sanctions and their waivers as worthless and meaningless,” Fars News Agency reported.

“Given the fact that the sanctions are in principle illegal, the Islamic Republic of Iran basically considers the granted waivers for sanctions as worthless,” Moussavi added.

A senior member of the Iranian parliament also slammed the U.S. decision.

“The U.S. is weak and shaky and it is in no condition to sanction us” any further, Abolfazl Hassan Beigi, a senior member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Fars News Agency reported.

“If the world is not supplied with Iran’s oil for two months, the global economy will be in trouble and undoubtedly, the U.S. wouldn’t be able to make up for the losses,” he added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said, “China firmly opposes the U.S. implementation of unilateral sanctions and its so-called long-armed jurisdiction.”

The Strait of Hormuz is the narrow shipping channel that bears transport of 20 percent of oil traded globally.

This is not the first time Iran has threatened to close the Strait, and likely isn’t the last.

In July 2018, less than two months after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear agreement, Iran began threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz.

Deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Esmail Kowsari told Iranian media at the time, “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.”

In December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani again threatened to close the Strait, adding that if Iran’s oil exports are blocked, Iran will block all oil exports from other countries through the Persian Gulf, CNBC reported at the time.