Image via Mehr News Agency
Following US declarations that Washington and its allies intend to take Iranian crude exports down to “zero” by cancelling waivers previously granted to eight nations, tensions are now soaring over the Strait of Hormuz, with Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) attempting to lay down the law amid fears the US Navy could move to block Iran’s access, given the IRGC’s new terror designation.
On Wednesday Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said if the US intends to pass through the Persian Gulf’s vital choke point — the waterway’s narrowest strait routinely patrolled by Iran’s military — “it must dialogue with those who defend it”.
Sharif’s words were essentially a provocative declaration that the US military must ask Tehran’s “permission” to enter the strait. However, he elsewhere explained that he doesn’t believe that President Trump wants war with Iran, but that he could be “lured into one” by his more hawkish advisers.
Iran’s foreign minister on Wednesday warned the United States of unspecified “consequences” if it tried to seal off to Tehran the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic passage into the oil-rich Gulf. — Channel News Asia
“I don’t think he wants war,” Zarif said in an interview at the Iranian mission to the UN in New York, according to Reuters. “But that doesn’t exclude him being basically lured into one.”
“Those who have designed the policies that are being pursued do not simply want a negotiated solution. But let me make it clear that Iran is not seeking confrontation, but will not escape defending itself,” Zarif said further.
The Iranian foreign minister also interestingly suggested the possibility that American operatives or their allies could try “to plot an accident” to create a broader crisis, in perhaps a continued cryptic reference to tensions in the Persian Gulf over the Strait of Hormuz.
Earlier Zarif addressed jostling over Persian Gulf access at an Asia Society event in New York, while there attending a UN session, but underscored that Tehran is “open for dialogue.”
“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” Zarif said.
“If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences,” the foreign minister warned further.
Zarif’s words are alarming, given Iran itself has already threatened multiple times, including very recent declarations, to block the vital oil trade route altogether (through which some one-third of global oil shipping passes), but especially considering the IRGC is now officially designated a “terrorist organization” by the United States.
Thus the White House will no doubt receive any ultimatum related to the IRGC as tantamount to a terrorist group holding the keys allowing passage through a crucial oil shipping line.
Along with tightening sanctions the White House has indicated it will take measures to halt Iranian shipments in international waters wherever its tankers are found. Such bellicose rhetoric has been flying between Washington and Tehran since the Trump administration first pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last May.
Further addressing the tightening sanctions noose on Wednesday, Zarif said, “We’re allergic to pressure.” He added, “Try the language of respect, it won’t kill you, believe me.”