Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Picture: AFP/HECTOR RETAMA
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Picture: AFP/HECTOR RETAMA

New York — On Wednesday, Iran’s foreign minister warned the US of unspecified “consequences” if it tries to seal off the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic passage into the oil-rich Gulf, to Tehran.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has been ramping up pressure on the clerical state, this week vowing to stop all oil exports from Iran by sanctioning any countries that defy its order.

“We believe Iran will continue to sell its oil, we will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at the Asia Society in New York, where he was participating in a UN session. “But if the US takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences.” 

The US, which is closely allied with Arab states in the Gulf, has had years of small-scale naval confrontations with Iran, which has occasionally threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the choke point through which 20% of the world’s oil flows.

“It is in our vital national security interest to keep the Persian Gulf open, to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. We have done that in the past and we will continue to do that in the future,” Zarif said. “But the US should know that when they enter the Strait of Hormuz, they have to talk to those protecting [it] — and that is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.” 

The Trump administration recently branded the guards a terrorist group, the first time the US has made the far-reaching designation against a unit of a foreign government, as it demands that Iran curtail support for militant movements in the region.

The elite force, whose mission is to protect the regime, is in charge of the naval defence of the Strait of Hormuz and also has an array of other interests, including businesses.

Zarif said Trump is being pushed by what he mockingly called “the B Team” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed; and John Bolton, the US leader’s hawkish national security advisor.

“The B Team wants the US to take crazy measures,” Zarif said, “and it won’t be the first time the US has taken adventurous measures plotted for it by others.”

AFP