Iran threatens to close Straits of Hormuz with missile launch

Iran, in a stand-off with the UN Security Council over its "inalienable right" to develop nuclear power, has threatened to use a newly tested short-range missile to close the Straits of Hormuz, if necessary.

Aug 4th, 2008

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 4 -- The Iranian government, in a stand-off with the United Nations Security Council over its "inalienable right" to develop nuclear power, has threatened to use a newly tested short-range missile to close the Straits of Hormuz, if necessary.

"No enemy vessels would be able to escape it within a 300-km radius from the borders of Iran," said Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the country's Revolutionary Guards, referring to a new Iranian-built antiship missile.

The Straits of Hormuz, described by the US Energy Information Administration, as a major "choke-point" of world oil shipping, sees about 17 million b/d of crude oil.

In order to avert an attack by the US or its allies in the region, Iran has repeatedly threatened to exert its control over the waterway. Underlining the international stand-off, the US has pledged to keep the shipping route open.

Threat follows talks
Jafari's threat followed talks between Iran and the representative of six world powers which ended on Aug. 4 without resolving the international dispute row over Tehran's nuclear work.

The West fears Iran aims to build nuclear warheads under cover of a civilian program. Tehran denies the charge, saying that it nuclear program aims at mastering the technology needed to generate electricity, not bombs.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of limited penalties on Iran since 2006, but the Iranian government remains undeterred in its efforts to secure the technology it claims to need.

Indeed, Iranian officials claim the sought-after technology is a national right. "Enrichment is Iran's inalienable right," said an Iranian foreign ministry. "When it comes to our inalienable rights, we will press ahead."

US and European Union officials stated that the telephone conversation with Iran on Aug. 4 was "not conclusive." They accepted a pledge by Tehran to provide a written response by Aug. 5 to the latest offer by the EU and US.

While accepting the offer of a 1-day delay, however, Western officials vowed further steps if the response was unclear.

"We agreed in the absence of a clear, positive response from Iran that we have no choice but to pursue further measures against Iran as part of this strategy," said US State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos.

Following talks between the two sides in mid-July, Western officials had set an informal deadline of Aug. 2 for Tehran to respond to their offer to refrain from steps to impose more UN sanctions if Iran froze expansion of its nuclear work.

In particular, world powers offered to start prenegotiations during which Tehran would add no more uranium-enriching centrifuges and in return face no further sanctions.

But Tehran dismissed the idea of freezing its uranium enrichment program, and a week later Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that his country already had 5,000-6,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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