World

Iran leader threatens to disrupt Persian Gulf oil exports over U.S. sanctions

Kyodo, Reuters

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Saturday that Iran will disrupt Persian Gulf oil exports if it is prevented from exporting its own oil by new U.S. sanctions, according to his official website.

Khamenei told Foreign Ministry officials that he supports President Hassan Rouhani’s recent remark that if Iran cannot export oil, no other country in the region will do so either, as “a crucial remark expressing the Islamic Republic’s approach.”

He did not elaborate on how Iran would prevent other regional countries from exporting their oil.

But he apparently meant closing the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategically important choke points, or making it risky for oil tankers to pass through the Persian Gulf, also through which much of the world’s oil is shipped.

This is the first time Khamenei, who has the final say on important matters, has made such a threat since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran on May 8.

Last month, the United States announced that it will re-impose sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and petroleum-related transactions on Nov. 4, with some other sanctions snapping back early next month.

The Trump administration has urged Japan and other countries to suspend all oil imports from Iran by the Nov. 4 date as part of coordinated sanctions against Tehran.

It has also signaled that European countries that continue to do business with Iran could also face U.S. sanctions.

Regarding Iranian reformist and moderate politicians’ recent proposals to reopen negotiations with the United States, Khamenei said the assumption that doing so would solve Iran’s problems is an obvious error.

“I have previously pointed out that Americans’ words or even signatures cannot be relied on, thus negotiations with the U.S. are useless,” he said.

Rouhani on Sunday cautioned Trump about pursuing hostile policies against Tehran, saying “America should know … war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

Addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats, Rouhani said: “Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” ISNA reported. Other Iranian agencies carried similar reports.

Under the deal struck in 2015 between Iran and six major powers — the U.K., China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

After the U.S. withdrawal, Khamenei had said that if the European Union wanted to save the deal, he is willing to give it a short window of opportunity so Iranian negotiators could gain “practical guarantees” from the 28-member bloc.

In his remarks Saturday, he said that while negotiations with the EU continue, “we should not linger, waiting for the European pack.”

“Meanwhile, the numerous tasks that need to be carried out inside the country should be followed up,” he added.

It was not clear what tasks he was alluding to, but following the U.S. pullout, Iran started boosting preparations for uranium enrichment by reopening a nuclear plant that was closed in 2015 after the deal was inked.