Iran threatens to close Hormuz strait, wants to expand missile range
LONDON — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened again to close the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea.
The state TV quotes Rouhani as saying on Tuesday that “if someday, the United States decides to block Iran’s oil (exports), no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf.”
The strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is crucial to global energy supplies.
Rouhani also pledged that the United States wouldn’t be able to prevent Iran from exporting its crude.
Rouhani has made similar threats previously, especially after US President Donald Trump threatened to decrease Iran’s oil export to nil.
Trump pulled out of an international nuclear agreement in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, criticising the deal for not including curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles.
Rouhani’s threat was welcomed by many Iranian officials, including hard-liners such as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s powerful Quds Force.
Iran wants to increase its missiles’ range, a senior military official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, a move that would irk the United States which views Tehran’s weapons programme as a regional security threat.
“One of our most important programmes is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition,” said the head of the Iranian air force, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
“We don’t see any limitations for ourselves in this field.”
Iran’s military has cited 2,000 km (1,240 miles) as the current missile range, and said U.S. bases in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, plus US aircraft carriers in the Gulf, were within range.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also defended the missile programme in a Twitter post on Tuesday, in which he said the UN Security Council resolution which endorsed the nuclear agreement did not ban Tehran from working on missiles.
“Making a mockery of the UNSC won’t obscure failure to fulfill obligations & to hold US to account over non-compliance. Esp when even US admits that UNSCR2231 does NOT prohibit Iran’s deterrent capabilities. Rather than undermining 2231, better to work towards its adherence by all.” Zarif wrote.
Nasirzadeh did not give details on how far Iran would like to increase that range, according to the Fars report.
At the weekend, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads as a violation of the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Iran has repeatedly said its missile programme is not up for negotiation.
(AW and agencies)