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Iran returns sanction fight to Gulf shipping lanes

July 24, 2012 • World News


FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, fishing boats are seen in front of oil tankers on the Persian Gulf waters, south of the Strait of Hormuz, off the shores of Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. Sometime later this year, the U.S. Navy plans to send minesweepers and warships into the Gulf for exercises intended to make Iran think twice about any attempts to block oil tanker traffic through the narrow waterway that links the region’s huge oil fields with world markets. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — When Pentagon officials announced plans to send U.S. Navy minesweepers and warships into the Gulf for exercises, they carefully tried to avoid framing it as a direct show of force against Iran. Tehran took care of that.

Iranian commanders and political leaders — facing an increasing squeeze from international sanctions — have sharply stepped up threats and defiant statements in recent weeks over the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint at the mouth of the Gulf that is the route for one fifth of the world’s oil.

While it appears unlikely that Iran is ready to risk an almost certain military backlash by trying to close Hormuz — which is jointly controlled with Oman — the latest flurry from Tehran shows that Iranian authorities see the strait as perhaps their most valuable asset in brinksmanship over tightening sanctions and efforts to resume nuclear talks with world powers.

In Iran’s view, the strait offers a rare combination of strategic and economic leverage. Warnings from Tehran in the past about possible closure have been enough to boost oil prices to offset the blow of sanctions. It’s also among the potential flashpoints if military force is used against Iran over its nuclear program. Iran could severely disrupt oil supplies and send the shaky global economy stumbling backward.

“Iran is masterful at keeping the world off balance,” said Theodore Karasik, a regional security Login to read more

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