Thursday 22 March 2018

Iran and US raise the stakes in stand-off over oil strait

Raf Sanchez in Washington

Iran has claimed to have taken surveillance footage of a US aircraft carrier near the Strait of Hormuz, as both countries raised the stakes in their stand-off over the oil route.

The commander of Iran's navy said the reconnaissance mission was proof that his fleet had "control over the moves by foreign forces" but it was unclear what intelligence could be derived from the grainy video, which was played triumphantly on state television.

Admiral Habibollah Sayyari's statement came as Iranian ships, helicopters and submarines continued a 10-day war game exercise designed to give credibility to the country's threat to close the strait and choke off the world's oil supplies if the West moves ahead with sanctions.

The drill is under way in international waters near the strait and only a few hundred miles from America's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.

The US navy has vowed to intervene to prevent any closure of the channel, through which 15 million barrels of oil pass every day.

A US navy spokeswoman would not comment on the footage but confirmed that the USS John C Stennis was on a "routine transit" through the strait.

Despite the Fifth Fleet's advantage in fire power, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander vowed yesterday that "Any threat will be responded [to] by threat".

Barry Pavel, director of the Brent Scowcroft Centre on International Security, said that Iran's navy was capable of closing the strait but would be unlikely to do so because of the country's dependence on revenues from oil exports.

"It would have to be a very extreme situation for Iran to basically shut down its own economy," he said.

The Iranian threat to close the narrow shipping lane was made after the EU, backed by the US, announced it was tightening sanctions on Iran for pressing ahead with its nuclear programme. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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