TEHRAN – The president of Iran said on Tuesday that if the United States stops the sale of Iranian oil, the Islamic Republic would prevent oil exports from leaving the Persian Gulf, in a speech cited on the presidency’s website.
Hassan Rouhani and senior Iranian military commanders have previously said they would block Gulf countries’ oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage between Iran and Oman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which approximately 20 percent of the world’s crude oil passes.
“If the US wants to stop our oil sales, no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf,” Rohani said in a speech in the northern city of Shahroud, as quoted on the presidency’s website.
Rouhani added that the US was not capable of preventing Iran from exporting oil.
US President Donald Trump’s administration re-imposed further sanctions on Iranian oil last month, and has said it is looking to bring Iranian exports down to zero.
Washington did allow temporary exemptions from its restrictions for eight countries: China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.
“The US is trying to separate Iran from its neighbors, Europe, China and India, promoting ‘Irano-phobia,’ but we won’t be an enemy to our neighbors,” Rouhani asserted.
The US claims its sanctions are necessary to curb Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as block its influence in the region.
Iran’s oil exports exceeded 2.5 million barrels per day in the first six months of 2018.
With the arrival of sanctions, exports fell by some 800,000 barrels but are expected to recover moderately in December, reportedly as a result of the US waivers.