The United States warned Iran on Wednesday against any attempt to disrupt shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, after Tehran issued threats over the vital oil route.
“Interference with the transit… of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little.
Iran’s Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has threatened to close the strait if the West imposed more sanctions on Iran as the country’s navy held exercises in international waters to the east of the channel.
Rahimi warned on Tuesday that “not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz” if the West broadened sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Amid rising concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the United States and the European Union are weighing new sanctions against Tehran’s oil and financial sectors.
“The Iranians conduct exercises on a fairly routine basis in this area. That’s something that we know about,” Little said.
“That being said any effort to raise the temperature on tensions surrounding the Strait of Hormuz is unhelpful,” he said.
He added there was no sign of Iran taking provocative steps near the channel.
“I’m unaware of any aggressive hostile action directed toward US vessels in the Persian Gulf or the Strait of Hormuz,” or against other ships, Little said.
As Iran carried out its drill, an American aircraft carrier, the USS John Stennis, and a guided-missile cruiser, the USS Mobile Bay, moved through the Strait of Hormuz in “a pre-planned, routine transit” on the way to the Arabian Sea to provide air power for the war in Afghanistan, Little said.
More than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, linking the Gulf — and its petroleum-exporting states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to the Indian Ocean.
The United States maintains a major naval presence in the Gulf mainly to ensure the safe passage of oil through the area.
Iran’s navy chief, Admiral Habibollah Sayari, said the exercises east of the strait were designed to show Gulf neighbors the power of Iran’s military over the zone.
Ships and aircraft dropped mines in the sea Tuesday as part of the drill, and on Wednesday drones flew out over the Indian Ocean, according to the Iranian navy.