A US military official has claimed American readiness to keep a key crude-oil transit waterway near the Iranian Persian Gulf coastline open following a stern warning by Tehran to block it in response to Trump administration’s vow to prevent any export of Iran’s oil as part of its hostile sanctions against the nation.
“Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows,” said US Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban in a statement as quoted in a Friday report by Military.com. He, however, did not elaborate on the general pledge.
The development came after Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) declared on Thursday that it stood ready to implement President Hassan Rouhani’s latest policy statement that if Tehran were not allowed to export its crude oil through the Strait of Hormuz – at the mouth of the Persian Gulf — no other country would be permitted to do so.
The Strait of Hormuz is a shipping lane between Iran and Oman through which more than 30 percent of all seaborne-traded crude oil and other liquids are transported every year.
The firm warning by the Iranian president during his recent European tour came in reaction to Washington’s threat to block Iran’s oil exports in the light of its illegal withdrawal in May from the multi-nation nuclear deal signed with Tehran in 2015.
Speaking at a Tuesday press conference with his Swiss counterpart Alain Berset in Bern, Rouhani insisted that the US would never be able to carry out such a threat, saying: it was “incorrect and unwise” to think that “one day all oil producing countries would export their surplus oil and Iran would be the only country that cannot export its oil.”
Rouhani’s remarks followed a Tuesday warning by State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook that any plans to continue doing business with Iran would be in violation of US sanctions against Tehran.
“Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue from crude oil sales,” said Hook, who has led Trump administration discussions with European allies on the anti-Iran sanctions.
Meanwhile, the report further cited a US Navy news release as saying that thousands of American troops are currently deployed in the Persian Gulf region, including nearly 2,200 Marines and sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault warship Iwo Jima.
Their mission, it said, includes “preserving the free flow of commerce,” noting that the Iwo Jima and guided-missile destroyer Laboon passed through the Strait of Hormuz “weeks ago.”
Top Iranian authorities have repeatedly warned that the nation’s military will potentially target all US military installations and warships in the region in case of any military action against the country by the US or its regional allies.
The current American hostilities against Iran were initiated in May, when US President Donald Trump announced that Washington was abandoning the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, under which sanctions against Iran — particularly its energy sector — were lifted.
Since then, Washington has persistently sought to obstruct efforts by the remaining parties to the deal to save the landmark agreement, which has been endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
Washington further boasts that it has warned countries around the world that they would be hit with financial penalties should they fail to cut their oil imports from Iran to zero when the American bans against Tehran fully come into force on November 4.