Iran navy exercise 'a message' to US, commander says

Iran navy exercise 'a message' to US, commander says
President Hassan Rouhani has warned Iran would close off the Strait of Hormuz if barred from exporting its own oil.
2 min read
08 August, 2018
Iran navy personnel aboard a warship [Getty]

Iran's naval exercise involving at least 100 small boats last week in and around the Strait of Hormuz was meant as a message to the US, the top US commander in the Middle East said Wednesday.  

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, told Pentagon reporters that Iran was showcasing its strength amid recent threats by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to close off the strait.

Twenty percent of the world's oil is transported through the Strait of Hormuz each day. 

"It's pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that, as we approach the period for the sanctions here, they had some capabilities," said Votel, referring to Washington reinstating sanctions against Iran on Tuesday.

The message back to Iran from US Central Command was, "We are aware of what's going on and we remain ready to protect ourselves," Votel said.

Iran routinely operates small boats in the Strait of Hormuz and the surrounding area, and has often threatened to shut down the highly travelled waterway. In recent weeks Rouhani renewed the threat, saying that if sanctions threatened Iran's crude oil exports, the rest of the Mideast's exports would be threatened as well.

Votel said Iran has the ability to plant mines and explosive boats in the waterway, as well as use missiles and radar along the coast. But he said the US and allies routinely train for that possibility.

A second set of US sanctions against Iran will take effect 4 November and target the country's oil industry. 

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