The United States and Iran came one step closer to war this week after the Trump Administration announced it would not renew waivers on sanctions against importers of Iranian oil.
The new measure aims to stop Iran’s oil exports altogether and will result in a critical loss of revenues since these exports make up 40 percent of the state budget in the Islamic Republic.
Trump’s decision was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who thanked Trump and said that the decision was of "great importance in increasing the pressure on the Iranian terrorist regime."
"We’re going to zero. We’re going to zero across the board,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Washington.
“There are no (oil) waivers that extend beyond that period, full stop,” Pompeo added.
Iran reacted furiously to the new American measure and threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz a narrow waterway in the Persian Gulf where 18 million barrels of oil pass through each day.
This accounts for 30 percent of the world’s oil supply and a closure of the waterway could result in a worldwide economic crisis since the price of Brent crude oil is already at a six-months high.
In reaction to the Iranian threats US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook assured the public that the US military will keep the waterway open at all costs.
“The US military will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, that's partly to ensure protection of the global commons so that it can be safe for commercial and non-commercial traffic," Hook said during a press conference.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif later said that the Iranian military top –which is made-up of anti-Israel and anti-US hawks- will decide on the closure of the Strait of Hormuz when the annulment of the waivers comes into effect at the beginning of May.
Immediately after the announcement of the new measure against Iran’s continuing aggression in the region, reports came in that the US military had started to build-up its forces in the Middle East.
The Washington Examinerreported that the Trump Administration sent two aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea this week.
The USS Abraham Lincoln left the port of Palma in Majorca and headed for the Persian Gulf while the USS John C. Stennis sailed through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea where it will cruise in international waters opposite the coast of Syria.
The Stennis has 50 F-18 warplanes aboard and the Lincoln will join the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group a collection of warships which was already stationed in the Persian Gulf.
The United States, furthermore, deployed an unspecified number of F-35 stealth fighter planes to the United Arab Emirates and has reportedly a number of submarines in the region.
The deployment of the naval forces and the F-35’s is the clearest signal to date that the Trump Administration will not hesitate to use force to keep the Strait of Hormuz open and comes after increased cooperation between the Israeli military and the US army over the past few months.
As reported on April 15th, the US military recently brought its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to Israel where it was integrated in Israel’s multi-layered missile defense systems such as the Arrow a mid-altitude missile interceptor during an unique drill with the IAF.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, furthermore, recently didn’t rule out the possibility that the Administration would make use of the 2001 Congress Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) to start a war against Iran.
The law came into effect after Al-Qaeda carried out the largest terrorist attack in world history and destroyed the Twin Towers in New York city.
Pompeo, during a testimony on Capitol Hill, said “there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaeda. Period, full stop.”
Asked by Senator Rand Paul if the Administration contemplated use of the AUMF to start a war with Iran Pompeo ducked the question and responded he would “leave that to the lawyers.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei , meanwhile, this week decided to appoint Hossein Salami the hawkish deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as the new head of the organization.
Pundits pointed out that “no Iranian commander has threatened the United States, Israel and Europe more than Salami.”
Salami is a “absolutely obedient commander and a vocal advocate of aggressive military diplomacy and Iran’s missile program,” Iran expert Reza Haqiqatnezhad toldRadio Farda.
Salami’s appointment makes a military confrontation with the US more likely, experts think.
The appointment of Salami came after the Washington Free Beacon reported that Ali Nasiri, a former IRGC brigadier general who once headed Iran's counterintelligence operations had defected to the US.
Nasisi fled Iran with “a cache of secret documents said to contain information on Tehran's military plans” according to the news site.
The former IRGC commander requested political asylum at an US embassy in one of the Gulf States and his defection could constitute a major coup for US intelligence.