28 December 2011

Noise Level Rises Over Iran Threat to Close Strait of Hormuz - NYTimes.com

Iran and the United States elevated the belligerent tone between them on Wednesday over an Iranian vow to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital Middle East waterway for oil tanker traffic, if Western powers attempted to make good on their threat to stifle Iran’s petroleum exports. Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, Iran’s naval commander, said that “Iran has total control over the strategic waterway,” and that “Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces,” in remarks carried by Press TV, an official Iranian news site. Admiral Sayyari, whose forces are in the midst of an ambitious war-games exercise in waters near the Strait of Hormuz, was the second top Iranian official to make such a threat in 24 hours.

Both the Defense Department and the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and patrols the Strait of Hormuz, responded to Admiral Sayyari’s remarks in statements that suggested American warships would stop the Iranians if necessary.

“The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity,” Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Fifth Fleet command in Manama, Bahrain, said in an emailed response. “Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated.”

The statement also said “The U.S. Navy is a flexible, multi-capable force committed to regional security and stability, always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”

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