Following US warnings dissuading port operators from allowing Iranian tankers to dock, Iran’s top brass pushed back by reiterating that its navy is ready to protect ships against any threats.
Iran’s military is “prepared today as in the past” to protect against “any threats,” and to ensure the safe passage of Iranian oil tankers, Rear-Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi, a deputy commander of the regular armed forces, said on Monday, Iranian news agency ISNA reports.
He stressed that any “hindrances” to Iran’s right to use international waterways “would be clearly unacceptable.”
The comments come a week after the United States unilaterally re-imposed sanctions on Tehran’s oil, shipping and banking industries. Although it’s unclear whether other nations will abide by Washington’s diktats, US officials have hinted that Iranian ships will no longer be welcome in international waters.
“From the Suez Canal to the Strait of Malacca and all choke-points in between, Iranian tankers are a floating liability,”Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to the secretary of state, said on Wednesday. “Self-insured Iranian tankers are a risk to the ports that permit them to dock [and] the canals that allow them to transit.”
Hook went on to warn that nations that ignore the US-imposed restrictions on Iran’s commercial fleet could face sanctions of their own.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and halt Persian Gulf oil exports if its own oil exports are blocked. In recent months, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has held naval exercises in the Persian Gulf designed to increase preparedness for “confronting possible threats.”
National Security Advisor John Bolton said in August that shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would be a serious “mistake,”suggesting that Tehran was merely “bluffing.”
On November 5, the US put back in force all sanctions previously lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, which Washington unilaterally withdrew from in May. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the sanctions will remain until Tehran complies with a list of 12 demands. The ultimatum calls on Tehran to halt all nuclear and ballistic missile development, as well as ending the country’s alleged “support for terrorism.” Washington also says that Iran must completely withdraw from Syria before sanctions can be lifted.