WED 22 - 5 - 2019
Jul 6, 2018
The Daily Star
U.S. Navy says will protect oil trade against Iran threat
LONDON: The U.S. Navy stands ready to ensure free navigation and the flow of commerce, the U.S. military’s Central Command said Thursday, as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned it would block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if necessary. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened in recent days to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to cut Tehran’s exports.
Praising Rouhani’s “firm stance” against the United States, the head of the Revolutionary Guard said Thursday the corps’ forces were ready to block the strait which links the Gulf to the open sea.
In May, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a multinational deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs to its nuclear program. Washington has since told countries they must stop buying Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face financial measures.
Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatories will meet Iranian officials in Vienna Friday to discuss how to keep the accord alive.
If Iran cannot sell its oil under U.S. pressure, then no other regional country will be allowed to either, said Mohammad Ali Jafari, who commands the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s most powerful military force.
“We are hopeful that this plan expressed by our president will be implemented if needed ... We will make the enemy understand that either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one,” Jafari was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
The Strait of Hormuz is the most important oil transit channel in the world with about one-fifth of global oil consumption passing through each day.
“The U.S. and its partners provide, and promote security and stability in the region,” Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban said in an email to Reuters.
When asked what would be the U.S. Naval Forces’ reaction if Iran blocks the strait, he said: “Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”
The Guard’s naval arm lacks a strong conventional fleet. However, it has many speedboats and portable anti-ship missile launchers, and can lay mines.
A senior U.S. military leader said in 2012 that the Guards have the ability to block the strait “for a period of time” but the United States would take action to reopen it in such an event.
Iran, the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, exports about 2 million barrels of crude oil per day.
The White House said last week that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had promised Trump that he could raise oil production if needed, and that Riyadh has 2 million barrels per day of spare capacity. The White House later seemed to walk back on Trump’s tweet.Saudi Arabia has acknowledged the call took place, but mentioned no production targets. The kingdom currently produces some 10 million barrels of crude daily. Its record is 10.72 million barrels a day.
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