CAIRO-U.S. Defense Department spokesman Colonel Steven Warren says U.S. warships have stopped accompanying U.S. and British-flagged commercial vessels through the Strait of Hormuz. The move came after Iran threatened to close the waterway to U.S. and allied vessels.
The threat to close the Strait of Hormuz follows an announcement last week by Iran's naval commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, that his country would hold maneuvers in the Persian Gulf in the near future.
The deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, General Hossein Salami, told state TV Wednesday that Iran would close the strait to U.S. and allied commercial vessels if it came under threat.
The general said that if the United States and its regional allies want to go through the Strait of Hormuz and threaten Iran, it will not allow their ships to enter the area. He added that the United States should learn from recent history, presumably alluding to Iran's brief detention of a 10-member U.S. Navy crew last January.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a gathering Sunday "the Persian Gulf is Iran's home" and that his "great nation has a right to be there." He went on to urge the United States to conduct its own naval maneuvers "in the Bay of Pigs."
Strait of Hormuz
A resolution passed in the U.S. Congress last week stating that Iran has "undermined the stability in the Gulf," increasing the danger of an "inadvertent conflict," is reportedly what angered Iran's leaders.
Former Iranian diplomat and analyst Mehrdad Khonsari argues Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz are not new and are mostly rhetorical exercises.
"What they are trying to say is that they are active and independent and powerful and can confront anybody, but the fact is that if you scratch the surface, the reality is that the Iranian navy is incapable of blocking the Strait of Hormuz," he said.
Khonsari added that Iran usually makes grandiose statements in the lead-up to military maneuvers and that they are mostly intended for internal consumption.
Some Arab analysts suggest Tehran is trying to project an image of power to its citizens at a time when it is seeing heavy casualty numbers in Syria.
The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in the Gulf island state of Bahrain, not far from the Strait of Hormuz. U.S. Navy warships have periodically accompanied commercial vessels through the strait when Iran has threatened to accost them.
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