US will stay in Persian Gulf despite Iranian claim, Pompeo says
The U.S. military will continue to operate in the Persian Gulf, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, rejecting a claim by a top Iranian commander that his ships were in full control of the strategic waterway and that American warships have no place in the region.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not control the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is an international waterway,” Pompeo said in a Twitter post late Monday. “The United States will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”
Pompeo’s statement came in response to an assertion by the Revolutionary Guard’s naval commander that Iran would control and supervise ships that move in and out of the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s key oil choke point.
“All the carriers and military and non-military ships will be controlled and there is full supervision over the Persian Gulf, Gen. Alireza Tangsiri told the Tasnim news agency on Monday. “Our presence in the region is physical and constant and night and day.”
Tangsiri added that “there is no need for the presence of aliens like the U.S. and the countries whose home is not in here.”
In recent weeks, tensions have ratcheted up between Washington and Tehran as new American sanctions take effect in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to end the nuclear deal with Iran.
A new round of sanctions was recently put into place, and a second set will take effect on Nov. 4 targeting Iran’s energy sector and the central bank. Iranian leaders have threatened to shut down Hormuz if the sanctions prevent the country from exporting crude oil.
Iran insists it has the military capability to block the strait, through which more than 18 million barrels of oil move each day, according to the U.S. government. Any shutdown of the waterway, which links the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, could lead to a sharp increase in global energy costs.
Earlier this month, Iran assembled warships in the area for exercises to showcase its ability to control the strait.
It would not be the first time Iran has attempted to block the waterway. In the 1980s, Iran and Iraq engaged in a “tanker war” in the Persian Gulf that quickly dragged in the U.S. Navy.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said that any move to block Hormuz again would face an “international response to reopen the shipping lanes with whatever that took.”