The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Iranian forces will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to the United States and its allies if they “threaten” the Islamic Republic, Iranian state media reported Wednesday.
The comments by Gen. Hossein Salami, carried on state television, follow a long history of both rhetoric and confrontation between Iran and the U.S. over the narrow strait, through which nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday criticized U.S. activities in the Persian Gulf. It’s unclear whether that signals any new Iranian concern over the strait or possible confrontation with the U.S. following Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
If the Americans and their regional allies want to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and threaten us, we will not allow any entry,
Salami said, without elaborating on what he and other leaders would consider a threat.
“Americans cannot make safe any part of the world,” he added.
Lt. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said American sailors “continue to operate in accordance with professional maritime standards and international law” in the Persian Gulf region.
“We remain thoughtful, vigilant and responsible mariners as we conduct our operations here,” Chernitzer said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We do, however, reserve the inherent right to self-defense.”
U.S. Navy officials say they face near-daily encounters with Iranian naval vessels. In January, an unarmed Iranian drone flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, the first such overflight since 2014, according to Navy records obtained by the AP.