America warns Iran that blocking the Hormuz strait "will not be tolerated"

By Brien Southward

The United States has issued a warning to Iran in response to threats of trade route closings along the strait of Hormuz, according to the Associated Press. The comments come from the leader of Iran’s navy, who said the country could close the trade routes in response to new sanctions from the West. If realized, the threats could affect global oil shipments, with 17% of those shipments moving through the strait from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea.

In response to Iran’s warning, its second in recent days, the United States Navy’s 5th Fleet, based out of Bahrain, warned Iran against any disruption at the strait. "Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations," 5th Fleet spokeswoman Lt Rebecca Rebarich told the Associated Press. "Any disruption will not be tolerated."

Should Iran’s oil supplies drop off, a senior Saudi oil official told AP that Gulf Arab nations are ready to offset any loss of Iranian crude oil. This reassurance led to a drop in oil prices after concerns over the possible economic consequences of a loss of Iranian crude, as Iran is currently the world’s 4th largest oil producer.

Perhaps the main cause of the rising tensions between the West and Iran has been Iran's nuclear program. Although the Iranian government recently repeated its invitation to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Western nations are concerned that Iran may be using its civilian nuclear energy program to cover up development of nuclear weapons.

AP reports that the United States Congress has passed a bill banning dealings with the Iran Central Bank, which President Obama has said he will sign. Russia, which shares a border with Iran, and China, both of which have maintained a friendlier stance with Iran, have supported more diplomatic approaches to resolving the conflict.

In response to increasing threats from the United States in the past few months, Iran’s military has adopted a more aggressive posture. Its navy is currently conducting a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz trade route, involving submarines, missiles, torpedoes, and drones. These exercises could put Iran’s navy in close proximity to the United States’ naval presence in the area.

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