04:44 GMT09 April 2020
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    Tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated to their highest levels in years in recent weeks after the US moved a carrier battle group into the Middle East, and stepped up its economic pressure on Tehran by refusing to renew oil import waivers to major customers of Iranian crude.

    Any armed clash between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf would lead to an immediate jump in oil prices to above the $100 a barrel mark and hit the economies of US and its allies, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has warned.

    "The first bullet fired in the Persian Gulf will push oil prices above $100 [per barrel],"  Safavi said Sunday, according to the Fars News Agency. "This would be unbearable to America, Europe and US allies like Japan and South Korea," the senior officer stressed.

    "The Americans are fully aware that their military forces (in the region) are within Iran's missile range and all US and foreign nav[ies] in the Persian Gulf are within the range of land-to-sea missiles of the Revolutionary Guards," Safavi added, referring to Iran's well-stocked arsenal of mostly home-grown missile systems.

    Long-standing tensions between Iran and the US under President Donald Trump escalated again last month after Washington deployed a carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln to the Middle East in response to alleged Iranian plans to attack US interests in the region. Along with the carrier group, the US deployed multiple strategic bombers to the region, and beefed up its network of Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems in the region.

    On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that the US would be willing to talk to Iran if it began behaving 'like a normal nation', adding that problems in US-Iranian ties were caused by the presence of the "Islamic regime" in Iran, and not by US sanctions. Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran would be willing to speak to the US side if it were shown respect and if the US followed internationally accepted rules of conduct.

    Tensions between the US and Iran began escalating in May 2018, when the US unilaterally pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Iran nuclear deal and began imposing a series of stringent sanctions against Iran targeting everything from its banking sector to its energy exports. On May 2, US export waivers for eight major buyers of Iranian crude oil, including China, India, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Turkey, as well as Taiwan, ran out. In response, Iran said it would suspend some of its voluntary commitments under the JCPOA, citing foreign states apparent inability to withstand US pressure.

    Oil prices slumped over 3 percent Friday amid global trade tensions, with Brent crude futures finishing at $64.49 a barrel in trading, while West Texas Intermediate crude futures finished at $53.50 a barrel.


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    danger, conflict, oil prices, Yahya Rahim Safavi, Persian Gulf, Iran, United States
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