06:27 GMT +320 June 2019
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    Sa'ar 5 a class of Israeli Navy corvettes

    Netanyahu Threatens to Deploy Israeli Navy to Enforce US Oil Sanctions on Iran

    © AFP 2019 / JACK GUEZ
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    Earlier, despite threats to bring Tehran's crude oil exports down "to zero," Washington granted 'temporary waivers' on Iranian oil to major importers including China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Greece, and Turkey, as well as Taiwan. Unless they are renewed, these waivers may expire in May.

    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.

    Boarding merchant vessels in international waters without the flag state's permission is illegal under the Convention on the High Seas, and may be interpreted as an act of aggression.

    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.

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