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There is increased Iranian military activity in the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Central Command confirmed to Reuters after several U.S. government officials said they believed Iran was preparing to carry out military exercises in the strait.
The news will only heighten already considerable tension between Tehran and Washington following threats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that they close Hormuz, which is the biggest oil chokepoint in the world.
“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman,” Reuters quoted Navy Captain Bill Urban as saying. “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,” the Central Command’s spokesman overseeing U.S. forces in the Middle East also said.
The preparations come in response to increased pressure from the United States amid a heated exchange between President Trump and Iranian leaders, with President Rouhani threatening Trump with “the mother of all wars” and the U.S. President striking back with a now notorious all-caps tweet that Iran should never ever threaten the United States or it will face severe consequences.
In evidence of how tense the situation between the two long-time geopolitical opponents has become, when President Trump later suggested, in response to a reporter’s question, that he could meet with President Rouhani without any preconditions, Rouhani wasted no time in rejecting the possibility of a meeting.
U.S. economic pressure on Iran has added to difficulties that the Tehran government has faced in getting the economy back on its feet and has sparked a series of protests. According to a U.S. official who spoke to Reuters last month, Washington has also launched a media campaign to spur the protests on and undermine the influence of the Iranian leadership, but some familiar with Iranian politics argue that this will have a boomerang effect.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.