December 5, 2018
Iran has again threatened to disrupt other countries’ oil shipments through the Gulf if Washington presses ahead with efforts to halt Iranian oil exports.
Its threats came as US defense officials told The Wall Street Journal that the USS John C. Stennis and accompanying ships will arrive by this week’s end in Gulf waters, the first such military presence in the region in eight months, to exhibit a show of force against Iran.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran and US officials say they aim to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero in a bid to curb Tehran’s missile program and regional influence.
On Monday, the Trump administration urged Europe to impose new sanctions on Iran after it test fired a medium-range ballistic missile considered capable of carrying nuclear warheads that could reach parts of the European continent.
Washington’s Iran special envoy Brian Hook also insisted that despite Tehran’s assertions to the contrary, Iran’s missile tests were not defensive in nature.
“We would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program,” Hook told reporters aboard Pompeo’s plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting.
Hook said President Donald Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran since withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal “can be effective if more nations can join us in those (sanctions).”
“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” he added.
Hook said “progress” was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran’s missile program.
But Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech during a trip to the northern Iranian city of Shahroud that “America should know that we are selling our oil and will continue to sell our oil and they are not able to stop our oil exports.”
“If one day they want to prevent the export of Iran’s oil, then no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
According to Agence France Presse, he also downplayed the economic impact of sanctions, accusing the media of exaggerating the country’s problems.
“No hyperinflation, no massive unemployment will threaten us. People should stop saying such things in the papers,” he said.
The latest inflation report from Iran’s central bank says food prices rose 56 percent year-on-year in October.
Rouhani acknowledged there were “some problems”, but said these would be addressed in the new budget plan to be presented on December 16.
He said the government would maintain subsidies on essential goods and increase public sector wages and pensions by 20 percent.
Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said that US sanctions were hitting vulnerable people in Iran.
“When (Americans) say their target is the Iranian government and there won’t be pressure on the sick, the elderly and the weak in society, it’s a lie,” Jahangiri said, according to IRNA.
Also Tuesday, Reuters quoted Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, a senior military official, as saying that Iran wants to increase its missiles’ range.
“We don’t see any limitations for ourselves in this field.”
Iran’s military has cited 2,000 km as the current missile range, and said US bases in Afghanistan, and the Gulf region, plus US aircraft carriers in the Arabian Gulf, were within range.