January 4, 2012 – Iran Warns U.S. over Aircraft Carrier Returning to the Strait of Hormuz: Iran’s military sharpened its tone toward the United States on Tuesday with a blunt warning that an American aircraft carrier (The USS John C. Stennis – Pictured Above) that left the Persian Gulf through the strategic Strait of Hormuz last week should not return.
The warning, by Iran’s military chief, was the latest and most aggressive volley in a nearly daily exchange of barbed statements between Iran and the United States. Iran has just finished ambitious naval exercises near the strait, and it has repeatedly threatened to close the passage — through which roughly one-fifth of all the crude oil traded worldwide passes — if Western powers move forward with new sanctions on Iran’s petroleum exports.
“We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to the Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf,” said Major General Ataollah Salehi, the commander in chief of the army, as reported by Iran’s official news agency, IRNA. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning.” General Salehi did not say what action Iran would take if the carrier were to re-enter the Persian Gulf.
A spokesman for the Defense Department, Commander Bill Speaks, declined to discuss future movements of the carrier, the USS (United States Ship) John C. Stennis.
The United States dismissed Iran’s threats to close the strait. “The U.S. Navy operates under international maritime conventions to maintain a constant state of high vigilance in order to ensure the continued safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce,” Commander Speaks said.
Iran’s economy, already reeling from Western sanctions over its nuclear program, has been hit hard by discussion of new sanctions aimed at its oil exports, the world’s third largest. President Obama signed new legislation on Saturday that could penalize buyers of Iranian oil, and the European Union has openly talked of a boycott of Iran’s oil. On Tuesday, France urged the European Union to adopt stricter sanctions, including an oil embargo, by the end of the month.
Iran’s currency, the rial, fell to record lows against the dollar on Tuesday. Oil prices rose sharply in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, with the benchmark contract for crude up more than 4 percent to $102.91 a barrel.
The attempts by Iran’s leadership to flex the country’s muscles on the world stage coincide with efforts to stamp out dissents at home ahead of planned parliamentary elections in March, the first ballot to be held since a disputed presidential vote in 2009 prompted national protests and a severe crackdown.
On Tuesday, an Iranian court sentenced Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to six months in prison for spreading what it termed “propaganda against the Islamic system,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported. The court also barred her from engaging in any political, cultural or media activities for five years.
Any threats to the smooth flow of the world’s crude oil will only serve to increase its price and choke off any perceived economic recovery.
The Master of Disaster