EU bans buying oil from Iran: How will Iran respond?
Iran threatened a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz in response to a new European Union ban on oil from Iran. Iran says it's considering an immediate shut off of oil to Europe.
(Page 2 of 2)
It has powerful defenders against the Western action in the form of Russia and China, which argue that the new sanctions are unnecessary, and can also probably count on China and other Asian countries to go on buying much of its oil, despite U.S. and European efforts to dissuade them.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
A member of Iran's influential Assembly of Experts, former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, said Tehran should respond to the delayed-action EU sanctions by stopping sales to the bloc immediately, denying the Europeans time to arrange alternative supplies and damaging their economies with higher oil prices.
"The best way is to stop exporting oil ourselves before the end of this six months and before the implementation of the plan," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
He also reiterated that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel between the Gulf and open sea through which a third of all oil tanker traffic passes to importers around the world.
Washington has said it will not tolerate any closure, a position underlined by Sunday's passage through the strait of a U.S. flotilla around the carrier Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by two European frigates, Britain's Argyll and France's La Motte-Picquet.
While Iran's Revolutionary Guards, possibly aware of their impending arrival, had backed away on Saturday from a threat made by a vice president last month to prevent "even one drop of oil" passing through the strait if the West embargoed Iran's crude, a senior member of parliament said on Monday that the closure remained an option if exports were disrupted.
"If any disruption happens regarding the sale of Iranian oil, the Strait of Hormuz will definitely be closed," Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of parliament's foreign affairs and national security committee, told Fars.
While the Western powers were at pains to describe their naval movement through the strait as routine, a view echoed by the Revolutionary Guards, they also stressed its symbolism.
"On this occasion HMS Argyll and a French vessel joined a U.S. carrier group transiting through the Strait of Hormuz, to underline the unwavering international commitment to maintaining rights of passage under international law," Britain's defence ministry said in a statement.
In Paris, spokesman Thierry Burkhard said: "It's a sign to Iran if they want to consider it like that."
Iran, the world's No. 5 oil exporter and also rich in natural gas, says it is enriching uranium and developing other nuclear technologies to meet rising energy needs. But the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reported in November that it had evidence suggesting Iran had worked on designing an atomic bomb.
The unprecedented effort to take Iran's 2.6 million barrels of oil per day off international markets has kept global prices high, pushed down Iran's rial currency and caused a surge in the cost of basic goods for Iranians.
(Additional reporting by Robin Pomeroy and Mitra Amiri in Tehran, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Adrian Croft in London and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Mark Heinrich)