White House: Iran making threats on the Strait of Hormuz because it’s weak

In yet another ratcheting-up of the back-and-forth between the United States and Iran on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Iran is making threats on the Strait of Hormuz because it’s “in a position of weakness.”

“It’s the latest round of Iranian threats and it’s confirmation that Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failure to live up to its international obligations,” Carney said at Tuesday’s press briefing. “Iran is isolated and seeking to divert attention from its domestic problems.”

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U.S. and Iranian officials have been lobbing rhetorical volleys since Iran threatened last week to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil passageway in the Persian Gulf through which nearly 20 percent of the world’s oil travels.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, said it would stop any attempts to close the strait, and sent the USS John C. Stennis through the strait last week in what the military said was a pre-planned trip.

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Iran’s army chief then warned Tuesday that U.S. carriers should not enter the “Persian Gulf region,” adding that Iran would not issue another warning.

Pentagon press secretary George Little responded that the military would not stop its operations in the gulf, where it has operated for decades.

Carney said Iran’s threats are a sign that sanctions against the country are working, pointing to the Iranian rial dropping against the dollar.

At the same time, oil prices rose to their highest level in seven months on Tuesday, in part because of the tensions. Financial analysts have warned that even an attempt by Iran to cause problems in the Strait of Hormuz could shoot up oil prices.

Iran’s threats have come as the country conducted 10 days of military exercises in the gulf, which included missile tests.

The tensions stem from the threat of economic sanctions that could harm Iran’s oil-reliant economy. President Obama signed into law a measure Friday that includes sanctions on the Iranian central bank, and the European Union is considering an oil embargo against Iran.

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