Monday, 06 August 2018 | In an apparent threat to global shipping, Iran has begun naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
United States defense officials told the Journal that the exercises, involving more than 100 vessels—though mostly smaller craft—have “fully started.”
In addition, there are flying craft, mostly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), taking part in the exercise.
Some US military officials believe that the exercises are a signal from Iran that “if Tehran wanted to close the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping route that links the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea and ultimately, the Indian Ocean, it could do so.”
Roughly 30% of the world’s oil supply passes through the Strait of Hormuz.
According to the Journal, the “US naval presence in the region currently is somewhat below levels that have been considered normal for the area in recent years.” However, The Jerusalem Post reported that the US is training using missiles and lasers to counter the threat posed by Iran’s smaller boats.
The Houthis, the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, have been threatening ships in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, at the mouth of the Red Sea. The Houthi threat prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assert earlier this week that an international coalition, including Israel, would be prepared to keep that critical waterway open.
Iran has a long history of threatening free passage of international shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.
In May 2016, during the presidency of Barack Obama, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said, “If the Americans and their regional allies want to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and threaten us, we will not allow any entry.” Two months later, Brig. Gen. Ali Shadmani, deputy chief of staff of the Iranian army threatened, “If the enemy makes a small mistake, we will shut the Strait of Hormuz, kill their sedition in the bud and endanger the arrogant powers’ interests.”
Iranian officials have also been threatening closure of the straits more recently.
Iran’s Navy Commander Rear-Admiral Hossein Khanzadi suggested this week that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz. “Keeping the strait open depends on Iran’s interests,” Khanzadi said.
A month ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is often described as a moderate, suggested that Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz, if the United States forced nations to stop buying Iranian oil. In a statement published at his website, Rouhani said, “The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported.”
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani praised Rouhani for his comments. Referring to Rouhani’s statement, Soleimani said, “Your valuable statement that said there will be no guarantees for oil exports from this region unless the Islamic Republic of Iran (can) also export its oil was a source of pride.”
Posted on August 6, 2018
Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 03 August 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)
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