JEDDAH: Iran on Tuesday designated the US military’s Central Command a terrorist organization, accused Washington of sponsoring terrorism and repeated its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.
It was Tehran’s response to US blacklisting this month of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and President Donald Trump’s move on Monday to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero, costing the country $15 billion a year in lost revenue.
The reaction is a sign of panic in the Iranian regime, the Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist Dr. Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News.
“This highlights the fact that the Iranian leaders are extremely concerned about the US sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic,” he said. “They have been feeling significant pressure from loss of revenues, a decline in oil exports, isolation of the IRGC, and dissatisfaction of the Iranian public with the regime.”
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday welcomed the US announcement that eight countries’ exemptions from economic sanctions against buyers of Iranian oil would end on May 2.
“Saudi Arabia fully supports this step taken by the United States as it is necessary to force the Iranian regime to end its policy of destabilizing the region and its support and sponsorship of terrorism around the world,” Foreign Minister Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Assaf said.
The Iranian regime used its oil income to finance dangerous policies without any consideration for international law, the minister said, and international pressure must continue until it stopped interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries.
Iran’s Parliament passed legislation on Tuesday requiring the government “to take firm and retaliatory measures against terrorist activities of American forces that endangers Iran’s interests.”
“The government should use legal, political and diplomatic measures in response to the American actions,” it said.
The new chief commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, appointed after the US blacklisting, has warned that Iran could use its cruise and ballistic missiles and drones, mines, speedboats, and missile launchers in the Gulf area to confront the US.
He repeated the threat that Tehran would block all exports through the Strait of Hormuz if Tehran were barred from using the waterway, where a fifth of global oil consumption passes.
The US on Tuesday urged Iran to keep the strait open. “We call on Iran, and all countries, to respect the free flow of energy and commerce, and freedom of navigation,” a State Department spokesman said.
Iran’s oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said the US had made a mistake by politicizing oil. “With all our power, we will work toward breaking America’s sanctions,” he said.