Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to deploy the Israeli Navy to help tackle suspected Iranian efforts to smuggle out oil via maritime routes to skirt US sanctions.
"Iran is trying to circumvent the sanctions through covert oil smuggling over maritime routes, and to the extent that these attempts widen, the Navy will have a more important role in blocking these Iranian actions," Netanyahu said, speaking to graduates of the Israeli Naval Academy in Haifa on Wednesday, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"I call on the entire international community to stop Iran's attempts to circumvent the sanctions by sea, and of course, by [other] means," Netanyahu added.
The prime minister did not clarify how the Israeli Navy, whose fleet consists mostly of coastal patrol ships, missile boats, corvettes and support ships, would tackle the suspected Iranian oil smuggling, or whether Israeli efforts would include preparedness for direct armed confrontation at sea. At present, the Israeli Navy operates primarily in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.
Tehran has repeatedly warned that it may resort to closing the Strait of Hormuz, a key strategic waterway through which roughly 20 percent of the world's oil passes, if it is provoked into doing so and its oil exports interfered with. Oil exports are a vital lifeline for Iran's economy, with the country exporting some $40.1 billion of crude oil in 2017, contributing to nearly 5 percent of total world supplies.