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  • 1390 25 1037 . PAIVAND Vol. 18 Issue 1037 Friday December 16, 20115 51

    Iran Says Closing Vital Oil-Transit Strait Not On Agenda

    RFE/RL- Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, however, reiterated that the strait, a narrow stretch along Irans Gulf shoreline, could be threatened if current rising tensions ever spilled over into war.He accused the United States and Israel of threatening Iran so as to create a climate of war...and in such a climate there is the possibility of some reactions.Oil prices spiked on December 13 after a comment by an Iranian lawmaker appeared to suggest Iran may be looking at closing the Strait of Hormuz.Parviz Sorouri, the head of the parliamentary national security committee, was quoted as saying that Iran will soon hold a drill to close down the Strait of Hormuz.An editorial in a hard-line newspaper with close ties to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meanwhile asked why hasnt the Islamic Republic of Iran used its unchallengeable right to counter international pressure by controlling traffic through the strait, a vital transit route that connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.The United States maintains a navy presence in the Persian Gulf to ensure it remains open.

    Does Iran Have Legal Basis To Block Strait Of Hormuz?

    A hard-line Iranian newspaper considered to speak for Irans supreme leader has come out in support of closing the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the worlds most important oil shipping lane, as punishment against countries that have sanctioned Tehran over its suspect nuclear program.A December 13 editorial in Kayhan asks, Why has the Islamic Republic of Iran not used its unchallengeable right till now, when there is a conspiracy of imposing sanctions against our countrys oil?The piece comes a day after an Iranian lawmaker reportedly said the countrys military is planning to hold drills to practice closing the vital shipping passage. The student news agency ISNA quoted deputy Parviz Sorouri as saying, If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.Julian Lindley-French, a professor at the Royal Military Academy of the Netherlands, said Irans intent appears clear.If this threat was carried out, in a sense -- denial of access through the Strait of Hormuz -- then [Iran] will be on a direct route of confrontation with the West and, indeed, many of the regional powers, he said.Thats because the strait -- which runs mainly along Iran, but also touches Oman and the United Arab Emirates -- is the only way for Persian Gulf oil to reach the open sea. An estimated 15.5 million barrels of oil are shipped through the strait every day -- one-third of all seaborne-traded oil, or 17 percent of the worlds supply.

    Iran says not concerned over possible oil sanctions

    AFP- Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi dismissed again Wednesday the possibility of sanctions on his countrys energy sector despite market fears of crude oil shortages that have kept prices high.We are not concerned that Irans crude oil will be sanctioned or embargoed, he told journalists after a meeting in Vienna of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which Iran chaired.I really dont think that the EU would sanction or embargo Irans crude oil.Irans crude oil is very important to the international oil market. We are the second OPEC producer. It would make the market very tense (if sanctions were imposed.)Qasemis comments echoed those he made on Sunday in Tehran but were also accompanied by supportive talk from OPEC colleagues despite recent tensions between Iran and the cartels kingpin Saudi Arabia.Iran has been at odds with Saudi Arabia following an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi envoy to Washington and Riyadh also reportedly

    offered to step in to help the United States and others if they suffered oil shortages due to sanctions.Qasemi on Tuesday met for face-to-face talks with his Saudi counterpart Ali al-Naimi.On Wednesday, OPEC Secretary General Abdullah El-Badri praised Irans contribution to the cartels latest production meeting.This meeting was successful, El-Badri said.It is the efforts of the president, the minister of Iran, that he really made a great effort to bring the ministers together to agree on this solution.OPEC agreed in Vienna to an oil production ceiling of 30 million barrels per day for its 12 members, which corresponds to current overall production, effectively keeping in check over-producing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.The EU has threatened Iran with oil and financial sanctions to pressure it into cooperating over its disputed nuclear programme, which the international community fears may lead to an atomic bomb but which Tehran insists is only peaceful.

    AFP- Iran dismissed intimidating remarks by its own officials against Turkey saying Tehran would target NATOs missile shield in its neighbour if threatened, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday.We reject those views completely, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Anatolia in an interview, adding that those who had made the irresponsible statements had been warned.The Islamic Republic of Irans official stance on Turkey is based on deep brotherhood and friendship, he said, adding that only Irans supreme leader, president and foreign minister were able to pronounce on Irans official attitude on international

    matters and foreign policy.Other statements are considered personal views, he said.In November, the commander of the aerospace division of Irans Revolutionary Guards said Tehran would target NATOs missile shield in neighbouring Turkeys southern Malatya province if it were threatened by military action.We are prepared to first target the NATO defence missile shield in Turkey if we are threatened. And then well move on to other targets, Amir-Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.Turkey in December conveyed its concern about the remarks of the Iranian commander to Salehi.

    Any interruption in those shipments would send shockwaves through the worlds already fragile economies. Already, news of Irans unconfirmed threat has driven oil prices up $3, to more than $100 a barrel.Theodore Karasik of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis said thats nothing compared to what would happen if Iran follows through on its threat.The consequences are that international shipping, in particular in terms of energy, would grind to a halt and this would put immense pressure on the economies all around the world. Youll see the price of oil skyrocket, probably up to $250 a barrel, Karasik said.Iran says closing the waterway is justified because governments like the United States and Britain have imposed economic sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program, which they believe is a front for weapons development and which Tehran insists is peaceful. Irans saber-rattling in the strait is aimed at heading off increasing efforts to curb its oil exports, and it says maritime law supports such a move.But James Kraska, a professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War Colleges Center for Naval Warfare Studies, says relevant law in this case is the UNs 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.Under that convention, transit through international straits is guaranteed for all countries, so there would not be a legal basis to close the [Hormuz] Strait, he said. And transit through the strait includes transit in the air, on the surface, as well as under the water. Theres no requirement to seek the coastal states permission, and theres no lawful basis for the coastal states to impede the transit.Neither Iran nor the United States are among the treatys 150 signatories, but Kraska says the convention is customary law that has been recognized for centuries. The waters in the strait have dual status, he says. They are technically Iranian territory, but they are also an international strait, and that

    gives foreign ships a higher right of transit.But lets say Iran blocks it anyway. Does it have the military capacity to then take on a naval power like the United States, which is certain to respond?A 2008 report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said Iran is essentially in control of the worlds oil lifeline and has the capability to wage unique asymmetric warfare against larger naval forces.The institutes Michael Eisenstadt says blocking the strait is something Iran has been preparing for for years.

    Iran has been investing for decades now on creating a naval guerrilla force which would have the capability of at least interfering with shipping through the Strait of Hormuz and perhaps closing it, at least temporarily, using a combination of mines, small boats, antiship cruise missiles, submarines -- both midget submarines as well as conventional submarines -- and most recently ballistic missiles, he said.

    Karasik of the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis agrees.Irans specialty is asymmetric warfare, he said. This is what they practice in their simulations and their exercises. This includes the use of small ships or boats, also suicide boats, underwater warfare capability, combined with the use of ballistic and cruise missiles. So they can pack a punch if they are able to get these weapons off the ground.But like Karasik, Eisenstadt says if Iran does succeed in blocking the strait, it could only do so for about a week.The bottom line is, although the Iranians have been talking a long time about closing the Strait of Hormuz, they probably only have the ability to do so for several days. And once the United States Navy gets in