USA Today reports that Iranian naval forces have increased activity near key oil shipping choke points in the Middle East, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.
Iran recently threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a key passage for oil tankers from the Persian Gulf, a move the Pentagon said would be countered.
“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for Central Command, said in a statement. “We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”
Iranian forces are expected to launch a naval exercise in the next 48 hours that may show their ability to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, US officials say https://t.co/mZ0XwmErXK pic.twitter.com/Jl1IwkibHj
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) August 1, 2018
Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned Iran that shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, which narrows to 34 miles, would be considered an attack on international shipping.
“Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz,” Mattis told reporters. “They’ve done that previously in years past. They saw the international community put – dozens of nations of the international community put their naval forces in for exercises to clear the straits.
“Clearly, this would be an attack on international shipping, and – and it would have, obviously, an international response to reopen the shipping lanes with whatever that took, because of the world’s economy depends on that energy, those energy supplies flowing out of there.”