Tensions in the Gulf could reach a breaking point as a senior Iranian official said Iran would “definitely” close the Strait of Hormuz if an EU oil embargo disrupted the export of crude oil, the Iranian FARS news agency reports. The 27 EU foreign ministers officially adopted the measures later Monday. The embargo would immediately forbid new contracts for crude oil and petroleum products while existing contracts are allowed to run until July, 2012.
Meanwhile, the US, Britain and France have delivered a pointed message to Iran on Sunday, sending six warships led by the US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln through the waters of the Strait of Hormuz.
UPDATE: Senior Iranian Lawmaker: Iran to Make Whole World Insecure for US If Attacked
Iran's FARS news agency is reporting:
If the US seeks adventurism against Iran, the country "will make the world insecure for the Americans in the least possible time and all the US military men will be forced to leave the Middle-East region to save their lives", Vice-Chairman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Jahangir Kosari told FNA on Monday.
"Of course in case of military aggression and conflict, Iran will not allow the American military men to escape; therefore, it is to the benefit of the US to accept the powerful Iran and avoid military adventurism," he added.
Israel and its close ally the United States have recently intensified their war rhetoric against Iran. The two arch foes of the Islamic Republic accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Both Washington and Tel Aviv possess advanced weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warheads.
Iran vehemently denies the charges, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
Iran has, in return, warned that it would target Israel and its worldwide interests in case it comes under attack by the Tel Aviv.
The United States has long stressed that military action is a main option for the White House to deter Iran's progress in the field of nuclear technology.
Iran has warned that in case of an attack by either the US or Israel, it will target 32 American bases in the Middle East and close the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
An estimated 40 percent of the world's oil supply passes through the waterway.
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UPDATE: Israel's Netanyahu Praises EU Oil Sanctions on Iran
Reuters is reporting:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised on Monday a European Union decision to place sanctions on Iranian oil exports, but said it was unclear if the move could thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"I think this is a step in the right direction," Netanyahu said at a meeting of his Likud faction in parliament.
"For now, it is impossible to know what the result of these sanctions will be. Heavy and swift pressure is needed on Iran and the sanctions must be evaluated according to their results."
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EU Oil Embargo Could Lead to Soaring Fuel Prices and Iran Closing the Strait of Hormuz
The Guardian reports:
The long-running standoff between Iran and the west over Tehran's nuclear program has shifted into a more unpredictable phase after Europe decided to impose an oil embargo on the Islamic republic.
The decision by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels raised the stakes dramatically in the war of wits between Iran and the west.
The EU decided no further oil contracts could be struck between the member states and Iran while existing oil delivery deals would be allowed to run until July. [...]
The oil embargo represents a leap in the sanctions regime against Iran, following four earlier rounds of escalating penalties.
Senior EU officials also concede that the move could be risky and send oil prices rocketing at a time of extreme economic difficulty in the west.
"We need to ensure this does not destabilize the entire global oil market," said a senior EU official.
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US Aircraft Carrier Challenges Iran; Enters Gulf Without Incident
A U.S. aircraft carrier sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Gulf without incident on Sunday, a day after Iran backed away from an earlier threat to take action if an American carrier returned to the strategic waterway.
The carrier USS Abraham Lincoln completed a "regular and routine" passage through the strait, a critical gateway for the region's oil exports, "as previously scheduled and without incident," said Lieutenant Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
The Lincoln, accompanied by strike group of warships, was the first U.S. aircraft carrier to enter the Gulf since late December and was on a routine rotation to replace the outgoing USS John C. Stennis.
The departure of the Stennis prompted Iranian army chief Ataollah Salehi to threaten action if the carrier passed back into the Gulf.
"I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf. ... We are not in the habit of warning more than once," he said.
The threat led to a round of escalating rhetoric between the two sides that spooked oil markets and raised the specter of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States.