Tehran Vows to Respond to Israeli Navy's Actions Against Iranian Oil Sales

Iran warns of firm response if Israel acts against oil shipments

Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said Iran considers such actions against its oil sales "piracy", warning Tel Aviv that it will face a tough response if it approaches Iran's oil tankers.

In the first 11 months of this fiscal year that began in April, India's oil imports from Iran rose by 5.6 percent to 486,400 bpd as refiners boosted purchases ahead of the USA sanctions drawn by discounts offered by Tehran, the data showed.

The Iranian Navy has been seeking to increase its presence at sea amid a new escalation of tensions with the United States following the decision of the latter to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, and reimpose the economic sanctions in Tehran.

On 6 March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the world community to stop Iran from shipping oil overseas.

"Iran has the military capabilities to counter any Israeli intervention", Iran's IRNA news agency quoted Hatami as saying, adding that the worldwide community would not accept this either. Those sanctions have already halved Iranian oil exports.

"Whatever sector you look at, companies will keep in mind being cut off from the US financial system when deciding whether to trade with Iran", said Mehdi Varzi, an independent oil consultant who has previously worked at the state-run National Iranian Oil Co http://en.nioc.ir/Portal/Home.

Hatami interpreted Netanyahu's comments as a threat to engage in "international piracy" and vowed Iranian forces will "secure the security of shipping lines and global shipping lanes for ourselves and all those who are in our area of responsibility". They intervened on Friday to repel pirates who attacked an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

"We never welcome any war, but we are ready to respond to any invasion".

Renewed U.S. sanctions have also meant Iran has been unable to secure vital certification services from foreign providers to ensure its ships remain seaworthy, shipping officials said.

Mike Salthouse with the International Group, which represents companies that insure about 90 percent of the world's commercial shipping, said Western insurers were very unlikely to do business with Iranian shipping companies. He also threatened to deploy the Israeli Navy to help tackle suspected Iranian efforts to smuggle out oil via maritime routes to skirt United States sanctions. "From the Suez Canal to the Strait of Malacca - and all chokepoints in between - Iranian tankers are now a floating liability", Washington Examiner quoted him as saying.

Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative on Iran, on March 13 reiterated the USA policy, telling an industry conference in Houston that Washington was committed to bringing Iranian crude exports to zero.

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