Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Iran escalates rhetoric; its currency hits new lows

Last Wednesday, the Pentagon said that any Iranian moves to close the Strait of Hormuz would "not be tolerated."

Iran just finished war games exercises intended to show how they could close the strait at will.

The latest escalation of words and deeds:

 USS John C. Stennis
A senior Iranian Army commander has warned the U.S. Navy not to move an aircraft carrier which left the Persian Gulf during Iran's recent military drills back into the body of water which forms much of Iran's southern border.

According to the Reuters news agency, army chief Ataollah Salehi suggested to the IRNA network on Tuesday that Iran would take unspecified action if the carrier returned to Gulf waters.

The USS John C. Stennis and another U.S. Naval vessel headed out of the Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz last Tuesday after a visit to Dubai.

"Iran will not repeat its warning ... the enemy's carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf," Salehi reportedly told IRNA.

"I advise, recommend and warn them (the Americans) over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once," Salehi told the semi-official Fars news agency, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the Iranian currency is not doing so well.  From Emirates 24/7:

Iran's currency, the rial, slipped to a record low on Sunday, the day after the United States imposed extra sanctions targeting the Islamic republic's central bank and financial sector.

The state news agency IRNA and an Iranian website tracking the currency said the rial's street value at money changers' slid to around 16,000 to the dollar.

That represented a huge difference with the official central bank rate of 11,179 rials to the dollar.

On Saturday, US President Barack Obama signed the new sanctions into law.

The measures aim to further squeeze Iran's crucial oil revenues, most of which are processed by the central bank, by making foreign firms choose between doing business with the Islamic republic or the United States.

They were being imposed as part of a Western push to force Iran to halt its nuclear programme, which the United States and its allies believe is being used to develop atomic weapons despite Tehran's denials.

Iran, the second-biggest producer in OPEC after Saudi Arabia, depends on oil sales for 80 percent of its foreign revenues.

The European Union is mulling an embargo on buying Iranian oil, on which a decision could be announced at an EU foreign ministers' meeting at the end of the month.

Iranian leaders and military officials have warned that extra Western sanctions could push them to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf.

(h/t Yoel)