An Iranian commander said there are potentially 35 U.S. targets Tehran is willing to strike after the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, raising the possibility of possible attacks on ships in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, the world’s biggest oil chokepoint.
“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there … vital American targets in the region have been identified by Iran since long time ago,” Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards in a southern province, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “Some 35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv are within our reach.”
The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that connects top oil-producers to the Persian Gulf, was thrust back in the spotlight over the weekend after Soleimani’s death. Earlier this year, Iran seized British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, attempted to block another vessel, and it was blamed for attacks on two tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said the Islamic regime would exact revenge for the killing of the top general, who was among the most powerful figures in Iran. Thousands of people took to the streets during the general’s funeral procession in Baghdad, Iraq, on Saturday.
President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed the United States killed Soleimani in Baghdad, saying the airstrike was carried out as a defensive precaution.
The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet patrols the region, which casts doubt on Iran’s willingness to try to close down the strait. In May, the United States announced it was sending an aircraft carrier group and other assets amid Iranian military posturing.
The British Royal Navy announced Saturday that two warships would be sent to the Strait of Hormuz immediately to protect U.K.-flagged vessels as they pass through.
Ben Wallace, the country’s secretary of defense, stated that he’s ordered two warships to head to the region and promised to “take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens at this time” The HMS Montrose frigate and the HMS Defender destroyer were identified as the ships that were deployed.
“General Suleimani has been at the heart of the use of proxies to undermine neighboring sovereign nations and target Iran’s enemies,” Wallace added in the statement. “Under international law, the United States is entitled to defend itself against those posing an imminent threat to their citizens.”
About 21 million barrels of oil per day flowed through the strait in 2018, which is equivalent to about a third of the global seaborne oil trade, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s website says. It also represents around 21 percent of the world’s global petroleum liquids consumption.
“There are limited options to bypass the Strait of Hormuz. Only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pipelines that can ship crude oil outside the Persian Gulf and have the additional pipeline capacity to circumvent the Strait of Hormuz,” according to the website.