This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The Iranian army’s chief of staff says Tehran could close the vital Strait of Hormuz if “hostilities reach a level where this cannot be avoided.”
Major General Mohammad Baqeri said in Tehran on April 28 that Iran does not “intend” to shut down the vital international oil route, but said “if our oil does not pass, the oil of others shall not pass the Strait of Hormuz either.”
“Currently, all vessels and navy ships must answer questions from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Navy,” said Baqeri. “U.S. warships also have responded to questions and we have not had a problem.”
Most of the shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, which goes through the Persian Gulf, are within Oman’s territorial waters.
Baqeri’s comments come one day after U.S. Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie says the United States has the “resources necessary” to deter Iran from taking any “dangerous” actions in the Persian Gulf region.
McKenzie told Sky News Arabia during an official visit to the region on April 27 that Washington would work with allies in the Gulf to present a united front against Tehran.
“We’re going to continue to reach out to our partners and friends in the region to ensure that we make common cause against the threat of Iran,” McKenzie was quoted by Sky News Arabia as saying, according to a transcript released by the Abu Dhabi-based channel.
“I believe we’ll have the resources necessary to deter Iran from taking actions that will be dangerous. We will be able to respond effectively,” he added.
Washington has been stepping up the political and economic pressure on Tehran since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
Trump in May 2018 announced Washington’s withdrawal from the landmark 2015 nuclear pact and reimposed sanctions on Tehran that had been eased as terms of the accord.
Trump asserted that Iran had not lived up to the “spirit” of the pact by continuing to development nuclear weapons and financing extremist violence in the region. Tehran has denied the allegations.
Trump has also demanded nations stop purchasing Iranian oil or face sanctions as he attempts to force Tehran’s crude exports to zero, further hitting the country’s economy and currency.
In early April, the United States designated IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
Washington will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on Iran “for its support of terrorist activity,” Trump said in a statement on April 8.