Iran warns West on oil passage in Hormuz
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad (L) and VP Rahimi (C) are seen in Parliament. AP photoNot a single drop of oil will pass through the key oil transit Strait of Hormuz if the West applies sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned yesterday.
The threat was reported by the state news agency IRNA as Iran conducted navy wargames near the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance of the oil-rich Gulf. “If sanctions are adopted against Iranian oil, not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” Rahimi was quoted as saying. “We have no desire for hostilities or violence... but the West doesn’t want to go back on its plan” to impose sanctions, he said. “The enemies will only drop their plots when we put them back in their place,” he said.
The threat underlined Iran’s readiness to target the narrow stretch of water along its Gulf coast if it is attacked or economically strangled by Western sanctions. The Strait of Hormuz is of strategic significance as the passageway for about a third of the world’s oil tanker traffic. Beyond it lie vast bodies of water, including the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is also active in the area to ensure that passage remains free.
Iran is currently carrying out navy exercises in international waters to the east of the Strait of Hormuz. Ships and aircraft dropped mines in the sea yesterday as part of the drill, according to a navy spokesman. Although Iranian wargames occur periodically, the timing of these is seen as a show of strength as the United States and Europe prepare to impose further sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors. The last round of sanctions, announced in November, triggered a pro-regime protest in front of the British embassy in Tehran during which Basij militia members overran the mission, ransacking it.
Tehran in September rejected a Washington call for a military hotline between the capitals to defuse any “miscalculations” that could occur between their militaries in the Gulf. An Iranian lawmaker’s comments last week that the navy exercises would block the Strait of Hormuz briefly sent oil prices soaring before that was denied by the government. While the foreign ministry said such drastic action was “not on the agenda,” it reiterated Iran’s threat of “reactions” if the current tensions with the West spilled over into open confrontation.