MAJOR: Iran warns US against oil blockade, wants improved relations with KSA

The United States has pledged to impose “the most severe sanctions ever” on Iran, seeking to restrict its oil trade in response to the alleged development of the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned the US against attempting to stop Tehran’s oil trade, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. He added that Iran has means beyond the Strait of Hormuz, through which to send oil if exports are blocked.

“Mr. Trump, we are the honest men who throughout history have ensured the safety of the waterways in this region, do not play with the lion’s tail, it will bring regret,” Rouhani said.

The Strait of Hormuz is a departure from the Persian Gulf that regional oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, use to send oil around the world.

Iran’s crude oil exports plunged after sanctions imposed on the country in 2012, limiting oil production to 2.5 million barrels a day (previously it was 3.8 million). When the Iranian nuclear deal was reached in 2015 and sanctions were suspended, oil production returned to pre-2012 levels. It is unclear whether the fall this time around will be as significant as previously, as EU countries are struggling to avoid participatation in the US embargo.

Relations with regional neighbors

Speaking to representatives of Iran’s foreign diplomatic missions, Rouhani said Tehran wants to restore good relations with its neighbors, specifically with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. However, he noted that such an improvement requires a “change of action”.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia deteriorated after the execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and 46 of his followers in 2016, after being found guilty of so-called extremist activities. The execution triggered demonstrations in Iran, a Shiite majority country, prompting the Saudi embassy to be ransacked and burned.

Riyadh has broken diplomatic relations with Tehran in response to the incident, with the action being followed by Bahrain, Sudan and Djibouti, while the United Arab Emirates has diminished its diplomatic relations with Iran.

Tehran denies orchestrating the embassy attack.

Another obstacle in relations between Tehran and Riyadh is the war against Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition supports internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi while Iran supports the resistance movement. Saudi Arabia claims that Iran has secretly provided weapons to the Houthi-led resistance.

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