Iran Threatens to Block Persian Gulf Oil Shipments

Hassan Rouhani, November 2018 (file image)

Published Dec 4, 2018 2:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani issued an implied threat to shut down tanker shipping in the Strait of Hormuz if the United States moves to block the export of Iranian oil. The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed steep sanctions on Iran's petroleum, maritime and ports industries, among other sectors of the Iranian economy, in an attempt to force Tehran to renegotiate a nuclear accord. 

"America should know that we are selling our oil and will continue to sell our oil and they are not able to stop our oil exports," said Rouhani in a televised address. "If someday they want to prevent the export of Iran's oil, then no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf."

In July, before American sanctions took effect, Rouhani published a statement that was also widely interpreted as a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz to tankers. “The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported,” he said in comments posted on his official website. 

According to U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, the sanctions have already cut down Iranian oil exports by about one million barrels per day (out of a previous average of about 2.4 million bpd). "Many more barrels will be coming off [Iran's export sales list] very soon,” said Hook at a briefing last week. 

Hook added that the State Department is using its resources to detect and deter Iranian oil shipments that violate the sanctions regime. The Trump administration has made clear that ultimately it wishes to fully remove Iran's oil from the world market, though it has implemented temporary import waivers for several allies, including top Iranian customers in Asia.