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After Iran threatens US carrier, bluff will probably be called

Crude oil prices surged after Iran dialed the threat-o-meter up to 11 with a vow to attack a US aircraft carrier if it returns to the Strait of Hormuz. The US 5th Fleet is likely to take up the challenge.

By Staff writer / January 3, 2012

Iranian naval ships take part in a naval parade on the last day of the Velayat-90 war game in the Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on Jan 3.

Reuters

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The bellicose rhetoric from Iran keeps getting well, more bellicose, as new US sanctions targeting the country's central bank touched off panic in the Islamic Republic's currency market.

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The simmering dispute over Iran's nuclear program has threatened to boil over in recent weeks, with Iran directing its threats at the freedom of the seas off its coast, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping lane for much of the oil produced in the Persian Gulf.

The latest came from Army boss Ataollah Salehi. He issued a fairly direct threat today to the US Navy, which has readied itself to patrol the Strait of Hormuz since Iranian officials began declaring they have the power to close the strait. "I advise, recommend and warn them over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once," he said.

Iran said it recently spotted a US aircraft carrier in the Strait. While Iran didn't name the vessel, and the US has not disclosed whether it was there, the USS John C. Stennis of the 5th Fleet was recently in the Gulf, a short steam from Strait of Hormuz.

The freedom of the high seas for both shipping and the US Navy is about as sacrosanct a directive as there is for US admirals, and the chest-thumping from Iran is almost certain to draw a response. The 5th Fleet, based out of Bahrain, exists to keep the oil lanes through the Strait open and oil pumping to the world's economies. Being told they can't go somewhere is an invitation for the naval equivalent of "oh, yeah?"

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