Washington: US has warned Iran`s Supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that any move to close the
strategic Strait of Hormuz would amount to crossing the "red
line" that would provoke an American response.
The warning was conveyed to the top Iranian brass through
a secret channel, The New York Times reported quoting senior
US officials, who declined to describe the unusual contact.
The NYT said senior Obama administration officials have
publicly said that Iran would cross a red line if it made good
on recent threats to close the Strait through which 16 million
barrels of oil - about a fifth of world`s daily oil trade -
passes every day.
Iran has threatened that it would close the Strait of
Hormuz, which is just 45 kms wide at its narrowest point and
works as a crucial waterway connecting the Persian Gulf to the
Gulf of Oman, in the event of a military strike or severe
tightening of international sanctions on its oil exports.
The secret communication channel was chosen to underscore
privately to Iran the depth of American concern about rising
tensions over the Strait, where US Naval officials say their
biggest fear is that an overzealous Revolutionary Guards`
captain could indulge in provocative act, triggering a crisis.
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey had
said that US would take action and reopen the Strait, which
the NYT said could only be accomplished by a military means,
including deploying minesweepers, warships and air strikes.
US officials said that they believe that Iran`s threat
were a bluster and an attempt to drive up the price of oil and
blocking the route used by majority of Iran`s petroleum
exports would amount to economic suicide.
But Pentagon officials who plan for every contingency say
that Iran has the capability to close the Strait although
Tehran`s forces are hardly a match for those of the US.
US forces believe that Iran has deployed heavily armed
speed boats, anti-ship cruise missiles along the Persian Gulf
coastline posing a threat to US forces.