January 6, 2012 Russia Today & The Daily Mail & Associated Press & The Telegraph
Following warnings from Washington, Britain's Defence Secretary has notified Tehran that the UK will not tolerate the 'very significant consequences' of a threat to block the Strait of Hormuz. In response, the US has threatened to challenge Iran's warning to keep US warships out of its territorial waters. Iran on Wednesday renewed its warning to America against keeping a US navy presence in the oil-rich Gulf, underlining a threat that Washington has dismissed as a sign of "weakness" from Tehran.
Iran Threatens Action if US Returns to Persian Gulf Russia Today Video
(January 3, 2012) -- Iran has warned the United States it will take action if an American warship returns to the Persian Gulf. It left the area when Iran started its 10-day naval war games, during which they successfully test-fired a number of different missiles. But Russia's defence ministry says that despite the latest military exercise, the Iranians don't have the technology to make intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Meanwhile, France is pushing for stricter sanctions as it says it's sure Tehran is developing nuclear weapons. It's urged EU countries to follow the US in freezing Iranian central bank assets and imposing an embargo on oil exports. Tehran has been threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz -- one of the world's most important oil routes -- if the West stepped up sanctions. RT talks to James Corbett, editor of the Corbett Report website.
We Would Use Force to Keep Gulf Open:
Hammond Warns Iran Not to Block Key Oil Route Tim Shipman / Daily Mail
Last updated at 12:17 AM on 6th January 2012) -- Britain would take military action to prevent Iran blocking the Persian Gulf to cut off oil supplies, the Defence Secretary said yesterday.
Philip Hammond warned the regime in Tehran that the UK will not tolerate the 'very significant consequences' if it fulfils a threat to block the Strait of Hormuz. He signalled that such action would be blocked by force of arms.
Mr Hammond used a speech in Washington to warn Iran that any move to close the key Gulf trade route would be opposed by the Royal Navy. 'Any attempt by Iran to do this would be illegal and unsuccessful,' he said in a speech at the Atlantic Council.
Then in a television interview, Mr Hammond said he wanted to send a 'very clear message to Iran' that the UK would not allow the Strait of Hormuz to be closed.
The Royal Navy operates mine clearance vessels in the Gulf as part of a joint taskforce based in Bahrain.
He said: 'We are an integrated part of the naval taskforce in the Gulf and one of the missions of that taskforce is to ensure that those shipping lanes remain open. Any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz would be illegal and we need to send a very clear message to Iran that we are determined that the Strait should remain open.'
More than 15million barrels of oil pass through the narrow stretch of water between Iran and the United Arab Emirates every day.
Iran has threatened to block the 34-mile wide strait in retaliation for a planned EU trade embargo on Iranian oil. The planned embargo is an attempt to persuade Iran to abandon plans to develop a nuclear weapon.
Mr Hammond said: 'Very clearly the Strait of Hormuz is one of the great commercial arteries of the world -- it must remain open and flowing, or there would be very significant consequences for the economies of the region and indeed of the world.
'We've heard these kinds of threats from Iran before, but there should be no miscalculation by the Iranians about the importance that the international community attaches to keeping the Strait of Hormuz open.'
It comes as Israel's military gears up with US forces to stage major missile defence exercises in the region. The drills, called Austere Challenge 12, are designed to improve defence systems and co-operation between the forces and would be the largest ever held by the two countries.
Thousands of US and Israeli soldiers will take part as they test multiple air defence systems against incoming missiles and rockets.
Israel has deployed the Arrow system, jointly developed and funded with the US, which is designed to intercept Iranian missiles in the stratosphere, far from the country.
A statement from the Israeli military said: 'US European Command routinely works with partner nations to ensure their capacity to provide for their own security and, in the case of Israel, their qualitative military edge.'
Mr Hammond was in Washington for his first meeting with his US counterpart, Leon Panetta. They held talks at the Pentagon yesterday on Afghanistan, Iran and other military matters.
In his speech, Mr Hammond also pointed to the economic crisis as the most serious threat to national and international security. He spoke out as President Obama yesterday rolled out a new defence strategy that will shrink the US armed forces, but pledged to maintain the country's position as the world's dominant military power.
He has already earmarked budget cuts of $489 billion (£315 billion) over ten years as the pace of spending slows more than a decade after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Mr Hammond said countries would have to work together more to reduce the 'astronomical' costs of modern warfare. 'Without strong economies and stable public finances it is impossible to build and sustain, in the long-term, the military capability required to project power and maintain defence,' he said. 'That is why today the debt crisis should be considered the greatest strategic threat to the future security of our nations.'
Last month, the head of the British armed forces said the biggest strategic risk facing the UK was economic rather than military. General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said 'no country can defend itself if bankrupt'. US Warns Iran About Closing Hormuz Route Ali Akbar Dareini / Associated Press
TEHRAN (December 28, 2011) -- The US warned Iran Wednesday that it will not tolerate any disruption of naval traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, after Iran's navy chief said the Islamic Republic is capable of closing the vital oil route if the West imposes new sanctions targeting Tehran's oil exports.
Iran's Adm. Habibollah Sayyari told state-run Press TV that closing the strait, which is the only sea outlet for the crucial oil fields in and around the Persian Gulf, "is very easy" for his country's naval forces.
It was the second such warning by Iran in two days, reflecting Tehran's concern that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could hit the country's biggest source of revenue, its oil sector. On Tuesday, Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi threatened to close the strait if the West imposes such sanctions.
In response, the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet's spokeswoman warned that any disruption at the strait "will not be tolerated."
The spokeswoman, Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, said the US Navy is "always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation."
With concern growing over a possible drop-off in Iranian oil supplies if sanctions are imposed, a senior Saudi oil official said Gulf Arab nations are ready to offset any loss of Iranian crude.
That reassurance led to a drop in world oil prices. In New York, benchmark crude fell 77 cents to $100.57 a barrel in morning trading. Brent crude fell 82 cents to $108.45 a barrel in London.
Western nations are growing increasingly impatient with Iran over its nuclear program. The US and its allies have accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its program is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
The US Congress has passed a bill banning dealings with the Iran Central Bank, and President Barack Obama has said he will sign it despite his misgivings. Critics warn it could impose hardships on US allies and drive up oil prices.
The bill could impose penalties on foreign firms that do business with Iran's central bank. European and Asian nations import Iranian oil and use its central bank for the transactions.
Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil producer, with an output of about 4 million barrels of oil a day. It relies on oil exports for about 80 percent of its public revenues.
Iran has adopted an aggressive military posture in recent months in response to increasing threats from the US and Israel that they may take military action to stop Iran's nuclear program.
The navy is in the midst of a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route. The exercises began Saturday and involve submarines, missile drills, torpedoes and drones. The war games cover a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea as a show of strength and could bring Iranian ships into proximity with US Navy vessels in the area.
Iranian media are describing how Iran could move to close the strait, saying the country would use a combination of warships, submarines, speed boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, surface-to-sea missiles and drones to stop ships from sailing through the narrow waterway.
Iran's navy claims it has sonar-evading submarines designed for shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, enabling it to hit passing enemy vessels.
A closure of the strait could temporarily cut off some oil supplies and force shippers to take longer, more expensive routes that would drive oil prices higher. It also potentially opens the door for a military confrontation that would further rattle global oil markets.
Iran claimed a victory this month when it captured an American surveillance drone almost intact. It went public with its possession of the RQ-170 Sentinel to trumpet the downing as a feat of Iran's military in a complicated technological and intelligence battle with the US
American officials have said that US intelligence assessments indicate the drone malfunctioned.
Additional reporting from Adam Schreck in Dubai, UAE. Iran Ramps Up Warning to US over Strait of Hormuz The Telegraph
LONDON (January 5, 2012) -- "Iran will do anything to preserve the security of the Strait of Hormuz" at the entrance to the Gulf, Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said, according to the website of Iran's state television.
"The presence of forces from beyond the (Gulf) region has no result but turbulence. We have said the presence of forces from beyond the region in the Persian Gulf is not needed and is harmful," he was quoted as saying.
The comments echoed a warning issued on Tuesday by Iran's military that it would unleash its "full force" if a US aircraft carrier is redeployed to the Gulf.
"We don't have the intention of repeating our warning, and we warn only once," Brigadier General Ataollah Salehi, Iran's armed forces chief, said as he told Washington to keep its aircraft carrier out of the Gulf.
The White House on Tuesday had brushed off the warning, saying it "reflects the fact that Iran is in a position of weakness" as it struggles under international sanctions.
The US Defence Department said it would not alter its deployment of warships to the Gulf.
But on Wednesday, Salehi reinforced his warning, and called 10 days of Iranian navy war games just held near the Strait of Hormuz a "message" to the United States.
"The forces from beyond the region have received the appropriate message from these manoeuvres," he said, according to the official IRNA news agency.
"Those who have come as enemies should be afraid of our manoeuvres," he said.
The exercises climaxed on Monday with the Iranian navy test-firing three types of missiles designed to sink warships.
The head of Iran's parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission, Aladdin Brujerdi, was also quoted by the Fars news agency as saying the US description of Iran being weak "is a completely illogical stance."
He added: "The US talks about sanctioning our oil but they should know that if Iran's oil exports from the Persian Gulf are sanctioned, then no one will have the right to export oil through the Strait of Hormuz."
The developments have helped send the prices of oil soaring, though they pulled back a little on Wednesday.
Brent North Sea crude contracts in London were selling for $111.58 per barrel. New York trading of West Texas Intermediate crude was at $102.30 per barrel.
"The situation with Iran remains worrisome," said Nick Trevethan, a senior commodities strategist at ANZ Research in Asia. The consequences of any military action in the Middle East will be enormous. A spike in crude prices will kill off any recovery in the US," he added.
Iran's war games were meant to show the Islamic republic could close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 per cent of the world's oil flows, if it is attacked or its oil exports are curbed by sanctions.
Last week, a US aircraft carrier, the USS John C Stennis, passed through the strait and eastward, through the Gulf of Oman and a zone being used by the Iranian navy for its drill.
Iranian military officials said that, if the carrier tried to return through the Strait of Hormuz to the Gulf, it would be attacked.
The US carrier would face the "full force" of Iran's navy, a navy spokesman, Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi, told Iran's Arabic television service Al-Alam on Tuesday.
The US Defence Department said in a statement it would continue the rotation of its 11 aircraft carriers to the Gulf to support military operations in the region. "Our transits of the Strait of Hormuz continue to be in compliance with international law, which guarantees our vessels the right of transit passage," it said.
The Pentagon also underlined its pledge to keep the Strait of Hormuz open, saying "we are committed to protecting maritime freedoms that are the basis for global prosperity; this is one of the main reasons our military forces operate in the region."
The increasingly tense situation in the Gulf was taking place as Iran struggled with turmoil on its domestic currency market. Foreign exchange shops on Wednesday were shuttered as traders refused to comply with a central bank order putting an artificially low cap on the value of the dollar against the Iranian rial, which has come under intense pressure in recent days.
Iranian authorities were trying to shore up their currency after it slid 12 per cent on Monday to a record low against the dollar days after the United States enacted new sanctions hitting Iran's central bank.
Iran, however, insisted the volatility of the rial is not the result of sanctions. It "definitely has nothing to with sanctions," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday.
The United States and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Iran's economy over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, which they believe is being used to develop atomic weapons.
Iran has repeatedly denied that allegation, saying the programme is purely for energy and medical uses.
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