Iran warns Israel of firm response if oil shipments are targeted

Iran warns Israel of firm response if oil shipments are targeted

Iran warns Israel of firm response if oil shipments are targeted

LONDON - Iran will respond firmly to any Israeli naval action against its oil shipments, Iran's defense minister said on Wednesday, in comments that came a week after Israel's prime minister said its navy could act against Iranian oil "smuggling" to evade USA sanctions.

USA sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, two of the largest oil producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and production cuts by OPEC and Russian Federation have boosted global oil prices to near four-month highs.

The Iranian Navy has been seeking to boost its presence at sea amid a new escalation of tensions with the United States following the latter's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran.

According to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Islamic Republic resorted to clandestine measures to commercialize fuel.

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The defense minister also noted that Israeli actions would be seen as "piracy" if the navy acted against Iran, according to the IRNA news agency. Those sanctions have already halved Iranian oil exports.

Brian Hook, the State Department's top Iran diplomat, said in November 2018, "If Iranian takers make calls to your ports or transit through your waterways, this comes at great risk".

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces are definitely capable of defending the country's shipping routes in case of any threat", he asserted.

Iran's navy has extended its reach in recent years, dispatching vessels to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

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Reutersreported on Wednesday that Iran's oil tanker fleet is aging and USA sanctions are making it hard for Tehran to maintain or replace the ships.

Iran has one of the world's biggest tanker fleets in the world.

He said these tankers can no longer be insured by worldwide companies and are likely to be insured by Iranian firms.

Renewed U.S. sanctions have also meant Iran has been unable to secure vital certification services from foreign providers to ensure its ships remain seaworthy, shipping officials said. India is hopeful that the United States will extend the waiver from sanctions on its oil imports from Iran when the current six-month period expires in early May following Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale's talks with senior officials in Washington this week.

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In November, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook called Iranian vessels a "floating liability", saying the US sanctions would bar them from global insurance markets, making them a risk for ports and canals which allow them access.

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