Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has drafted a bill calling for Iran to try to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support sanctions against it.
“There is a bill prepared in the National Security and Foreign Policy committee of Parliament that stresses the blocking of oil tanker traffic carrying oil to countries that have sanctioned Iran,” Iranian MP Ibrahim Agha-Mohammadi was quoted by Iran’s parliamentary news agency as saying on Monday.
“This bill has been developed as an answer to the European Union’s oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Agha-Mohammadi said that 100 of Tehran’s 290 members of parliament had signed the bill as of Sunday.
Iran has been floating the threat of closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the oil-rich Gulf if its nuclear programme is targeted by air strikes that Israel and the United States reserve as an option.
While this is a preliminary move that may go no further, even a credible threat to shutting down the strait could lead to oil prices nearly doubling. So far, Iranian political and military officials have said they had no intention on carrying out any threat to close the strait.
Iranian threats to block the waterway through which about 17 million barrels a day sailed in 2011 have grown in the past year as US and European sanctions aimed at starving Tehran of funds for its nuclear programme have tightened.
A heavy western naval presence in the Gulf and surrounding area is a big impediment to any attempt to block the vital shipping route through which sails most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq and nearly all the gas exported from Qatar.
Iran’s oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, told Al Jazeera in November that if pushed, Iran would be willing to use oil as a political tool, although oil and security experts at the time said that this was an unlikely move as Iran relies on the strait more than any other country in the region.
“Iran has no other outlet for its oil, so it would be cutting off its nose to spite its own face,” one expert told Al Jazeera.
A European Union ban on imports of Iranian oil started on Sunday.