Thu, Mar 14, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Iran warns of firm response if the Israeli navy moves to obstruct its oil shipments

Reuters, LONDON

Iran would respond firmly to any Israeli naval action against its oil shipments, the Iranian minister of defense said yesterday, in comments that came a week after the Israeli prime minister said that its navy could act against Iranian oil “smuggling” to enforce US sanctions.

US President Donald Trump last year quit a nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed some sanctions, aiming to cut Tehran’s oil exports to zero.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week told naval officers that Iran was still resorting to clandestine measures to ship fuel.

Iranian Minister of Defense Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by the Islamic Republic News Agency that Tehran had the military capabilities to confront any Israeli intervention, and said that the international community would not accept such an action.

Such a confrontation would be considered as “piracy,” Hatami said, adding that “if it happens, we will firmly respond.”

“The Iranian armed forces have certainly the capabilities to protect the country’s shipping lines in the best way against any possible threat,” Hatami said.

According to maritime experts, Iran has used a variety of measures to evade sanctions, including changing the names of ships or flag registries, switching off location transponders on ships, and conducting ship-to-ship transfers offshore and away from large trade hubs.

Iran’s navy has extended its reach in that past few years, dispatching vessels to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

On Friday, they intervened to repel pirates who attacked an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander yesterday said that enemies would regret any confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

“We never welcome any war, but we are ready to respond to any invasion. We hope the aggressors do not need to understand this point by trying it and paying a high price,” Major General Gholamali Rashid was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.

The Israeli navy, whose largest vessels are missile corvettes and a small submarine fleet, is mostly active in the Mediterranean and Red seas.

Iran has one of the world’s biggest tanker fleets in the world.

In November last year, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook called Iranian vessels a “floating liability,” saying that the US sanctions would bar them from international insurance markets, making them a risk for ports and canals that allow them access.

Iranian officials have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route in the Gulf, if the US attempts to stop the Islamic Republic’s oil exports.

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