IRAN has warned the US that it will close a key shipping route its oil exports are stopped.
Iran is threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz if its oil exports are stopped, according to reports.
The strait is the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and it is a busy shipping lane for oil.
Iran previously said it would close the strait in July 2018 in a clash over US sanctions.
What happened in July 2018?
In comments published July 3 on his official website, President Hassan Rouhani issued a vague threat against regional oil exports, saying, “the Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported.” On July 4 and 5, several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials expressed their willingness to follow through on the president’s tacit threat. The IRGC’s commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, for example, said, “we are hopeful that this plan expressed by our president will be implemented if needed. We will make the enemy understand that either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”
It comes after US President Donald Trump reimposed tough sanctions on Iran’s energy exports last year over its nuclear programme.
The Islamic Republic’s leader President Hassan Rouhani has branded them a “crime against humanity”.
Tehran is preparing to file a legal case against US officials who imposed the sanctions on the country as a precursor to action in the international courts.
Mr Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television the punitive measures had created difficulties including a weaker rial currency that has fed into higher inflation.
He said he had ordered the ministries of foreign affairs and justice “to file a legal case in Iranian courts against those in America who designed and imposed sanctions on Iran”.
Mr. Rouhani added: “These sanctions are a crime against humanity.”
If the Iranian court finds against the US officials, Iran will pursue the case in international courts of justice.
Previous Iranian complaints about sanctions in the international courts have been successful.
In October, judges at the International Court Of Justice (ICJ) ordered the US to ensure sanctions did not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.
Mr. Rouhani said: “The Americans have only one goal: they want to come back to Iran and rule the nation again.”
He said his government had managed to “put a brake on the fall of rial” but that balance has not yet returned to the foreign currency market.
Why does the Strait of Hormuz matter?
The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage in the Persian Gulf between Omani and Iranian territory, facilitates the movement of some 30 to 35 percent of the world’s maritime oil trade. Close to 17 million barrels of oil travel through the strait each day, and all Persian Gulf shipping must travel through it. This includes shipping from every port in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, most of the ports in the United Arab Emirates and some critical ports in Saudi Arabia. Consequently, threats to the Strait of Hormuz, whether realistic or not, drastically affect market certainty because all of the world’s big oil or natural gas importers — including the United States — depend on the secure passage of shipping through the strait.