US navy says it will protect Strait of Hormuz in event of Iranian disruption

Rohani, incensed by US attempts to reduce his country’s oil imports, said Iran could block oil shipments from other Gulf countries.
Thursday 05/07/2018
a U.S. Navy helicopter flies over an Iranian offshore oil rig as the USS George H.W. Bush travels through the Strait of Hormuz. (AP)
a U.S. Navy helicopter flies over an Iranian offshore oil rig as the USS George H.W. Bush travels through the Strait of Hormuz. (AP)

TUNIS - The US navy is prepared to ensure free passage and the flow of commerce on the Strait of Hormuz in the event of a disruption, the US military’s Central Command said on Thursday, as Iran threatened to block the waterway.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani, incensed by US attempts to reduce his country’s oil imports, has said Iran could block oil shipments from other Gulf countries, which must use the narrow strait to connect with the open sea. 

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.

Rohani, speaking in Austria on July 4, said "the Americans say they want to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero.... It shows they have not thought about its consequences.” 

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari echoed the president’s remarks, saying: “We will make the enemy understand that either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”

In May, US President Donald Trump angered Iran and his European allies by pulling out of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), casting its future into jeopardy. 

Iran has since said it would remain in the deal with European partners as long as its interests are guaranteed, but lashed out at the US for attempting to block its oil sales to other countries.

Trump has threatened to sanction countries that do business with Iran beyond November 4, when US sanctions come into effect. 

Iran’s OPEC Governor told Reuters that his policies would prompt price hikes, even as Saudi Arabia and Russia said they could pump more.

“The responsibility of paying unnecessary prices for oil by all consumers of the whole world, especially in U.S. gas stations, is solely upon your (Trump’s) shoulders and the price of over $100 per barrel is yet to come,” Hossein Kazempour said. 

Responding to Iran’s threats to block other Gulf exporters from using the Strait of Hormuz, a US Central Command spokesman told Reuters: “we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

“The US 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.

However, the US also threatened to sanction countries that do business with Iran past November 4, when the US’s sanctions go into effect, although the State Department later said it could provide exemptions on a “case-by-case basis.” 

(Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)