US navy on alert as Iran threatens to block Gulf oil route

President Hassan Rouhani calls Trump’s sanctions on his nation ‘incorrect and unwise’

Hassan Rouhani
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani
(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

The US navy is on standby near the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s military warned it would block all oil shipments through the channel if Washington goes ahead with sanctions against Iranian oil exports.

The strait is the most important oil transit channel in the world, with about a fifth of all oil consumed globally passing through on tankers every day, Reuters reports.

Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s most powerful military force, told Iranian media: “We will make the enemy understand that either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”

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In response, US Navy Central Command spokesperson Bill Urban said that US ships were ready to fulfill their mission to “provide and promote security and stability in the region”.

“Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows,” he added.

As The Guardian notes, the threats “will bring back memories of the latter years of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, when US forces attacked Iranian territorial waters after a US ship struck an Iranian mine”.

Following a few years of diplomatic stability, US-Iran relations have deteriorated rapidly in recent months, with the war of words between the two nations reaching a zenith when Donald Trump announced in May that the US was withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, signed in 2015.

As tensions grow, the US president is demanding that all countries end imports of Iranian oil by 4 November, as part of a series of 12 demands aimed at forcing Iran to behave “like a normal country”.

Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani embarked on a European tour this week in an attempt to salvage the multilateral nuclear agreement with EU leaders. Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatories are meeting with Iranian officials in Vienna today to discuss proposals aimed at keeping the deal alive.

However, during a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, Rouhani said that the package proposed by EU leaders “does not meet all our demands”, and demanded a “clear action plan from Europe with a timetable so it can compensate for the US exit from the deal”.

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