Iran to 'block' Gulf oil if sanctions proceed - 12-28-2011, 07:10 PM
12-28-2011, 09:00 PM
Iran steps up threat to close international shipping route
Iran steps up threat to close international shipping route - International - Scotsman.com
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a visit at the Armenian Parliament in Yerevan. Photo: AFP
Published on Thursday 29 December 2011 00:30
Iran’s navy chief warned yesterday that his country can easily close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the passageway through which a sixth of the world’s oil flows.
It was the second such warning in two days. On Tuesday, vice-president Mohamed Reza Rahimi threatened to close the strait, cutting off oil exports, if the West imposes sanctions on Iran’s oil shipments.
“Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran’s armed forces is really easy … or, as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water,” Habibollah Sayyari, Iran’s navy chief, told Iran’s English-language Press TV.
The threats underline Iranian concern that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could target Tehran’s vital oil industry and exports over its refusal to fully open its nuclear programme to inspection.
So far, major trade partners Russia and China have blocked a ban on Iran’s oil exports at the United Nations. Iran’s arch-foes Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to rein in Iran’s nuclear work.
Iran is the world’s fourth- largest oil producer, with an output of about four million barrels of oil a day. It relies on oil exports for about 80 per cent of its public revenues.
The US and European Union have accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear programme as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its programme is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
In response to the closure threat, the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet said it will not allow any disruption of traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. “Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated,” a spokesperson said.
The Iranian navy is in the midst of a ten-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route. The exercises began on Saturday and involve submarines, missile drills, torpedoes and drones. The war games cover a 1,250-mile stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea as a show of strength.
Iranian media have been describing how Iran could move to close the strait, saying the country would use a combination of warships, submarines, speed boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, surface-to-sea missiles and drones to stop ships from sailing through the narrow waterway.
An Iranian analyst, who declined to be named, said the leadership could not reach a compromise with the West over its nuclear activities as it “would harm its prestige among its core supporters. Iranian officials are showing their teeth to prevent a military strike.”
However, the analyst added: “Closing off the Strait of Hormuz will harm Iran’s economy – that will be very dangerous for the establishment ahead of the parliamentary vote.”
Iran will hold its parliamentary election in March, the first litmus test of the clerical establishment’s popularity since the 2009 disputed presidential vote, that the opposition says was rigged to secure president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. The vote was followed by eight months of anti-government protests and created a deepening political rift among the hardline rulers.
|block, gulf, iran, oil, proceed, sanctions|