Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali KhameneiReuters

A hard-line newspaper close to Iran's ruling clerics on Wednesday suggested that authorities close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for global energy supplies, in response to alleged foreign support for the nationwide protests gripping the country, The Associated Press reported.

The suggestion came from the editor-in-chief of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, who is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in an editorial that could be seen as a trial balloon.

“Closing the Strait of Hormuz to Western countries’ oil tankers and commercial vessels is Iran’s legal right," the editor, Hossein Shariatmadari wrote, according to AP. "We can even seize a part of their commercial cargo as compensation for the financial damage they have done to our country.”

The Revolutionary Guard typically patrols the shallower waters of the Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth, the Strait of Hormuz, through which around one third of all oil traded by sea passes.

The narrow waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf has seen a number of tense encounters between the US and Iran over the years.

Just last week, an Iranian patrol boat tried to temporarily blind US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz by shining a spotlight toward the vessels and crossing within 150 yards of them.

In August, an Iranian ship seized an American military unmanned research vessel in the Gulf but released it after a US Navy patrol boat and helicopter were deployed to the location.

In June, three vessels controlled by the IRGC buzzed two American ships at what the US military called “dangerously high speed”.

The Islamic Republic has threatened more than once to close the Strait of Hormuz, with the United States warning Iran in response that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" -- grounds for US military action.

Protests have gripped Iran following the September 16 death of 22-year-old Amini after she was arrested by the morality police.

Hundreds of protesters have been killed in more than two months of nationwide unrest, including dozens of minors. In addition, at least six people have so far been handed death sentences over the demonstrations.

Khamenei has claimed that the protests inside the country are the work of Israel and the United States.

"This rioting was planned," he said in October. "These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees."