Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo: AFP)
Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday warned the United States of unspecified "consequences" if it tried to seal off to Tehran the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic passage into the oil-rich Gulf.
President Donald Trump's administration has been ramping up pressure on the clerical state, this week vowing to stop all oil exports from Iran by sanctioning any countries that defy its order.
"We believe Iran will continue to sell its oil, we will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at the Asia Society in New York, where he was participating in a UN session.
"But if the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences," he said.
The United States, which is closely allied with Arab states in the Gulf, has had years of small-scale naval confrontations with Iran, which has occasionally threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint through which 20 percent of the world's oil flows.
"It is in our vital national security interest to keep the Persian Gulf open, to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. We have done that in the past and we will continue to do that in the future," Zarif said.
"But the United States should know that when they enter the Strait of Hormuz, they have to talk to those protecting the Strait of Hormuz -- and that is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards," he said.
The Trump administration recently branded the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, the first time the United States has made the far-reaching designation against a unit of a foreign government, as it demands that Iran curtail support for militant movements in the region.
The elite force, whose mission is to protect the regime, is in charge of the naval defense of the Strait of Hormuz and also has an array of other interests, including businesses.
Zarif said Trump was being pushed by what he mockingly called "the B Team" -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and John Bolton, the US leader's hawkish national security advisor.
"The B Team wants the United States to take crazy measures, and it won't be the first time the US has taken adventurous measures plotted for it by others," he said.