Iranian Army Chief Ataollah Salehi recently threatened the United States, stating that if U.S. naval carriers return to the Persian Gulf after Iranian naval exercises have been completed, then Iran will take action. The U.S. naval carriers usually stationed in the Persian Gulf left the area prior to Iran’s ten-day naval exercise, which ended this Monday.
“Iran will not repeat its warning,” Salehi told the Iranian state news agency. “The enemy’s carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf.”
Relations between the U.S. and Iran have been increasingly strained over the past few weeks. Recently, in response to growing sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Iran threatened to close of the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40% of the world’s oil supply is shipped. In response to Iran’s threat, the Obama administration responded by moving the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis through the Strait of Hormuz.
Obama has kept pressure on Iran, and on New Year’s Eve the President signed a bill imposing new sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran’s central bank. This new bill, along with the threat of further sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry, has hit Iran’s economy hard.
In the face of this growing pressure, Tehran has announced its willingness to renew talks over its nuclear program with the 5+1 powers, which include the U.S., U.K., Britain, France, Russia, and China. According to Israeli Political Science Professor Amiel Ungar, Iran’s sudden interest in renewing talks is designed to cause a split between the U.S. and the E.U. in order to avoid an oil embargo.
If there was ever a time when the U.S. needed to show leadership, it is now. It should be obvious to all that renewed talks will only serve Iran’s interest. The U.S. must lead the way for an oil embargo against Iran, because this is the last chance to stop the Iranian nuclear bomb from happening – that is, outside of a military strike.