US commanders are issuing a flurry of statements Thursday promising to use military force to ensure “freedom of navigation” in the Strait of Hormuz. They are trying to present this as a response to an Iranian “threat” to close the area.
The “threat” amounts to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying a US attempt to block Iranian exports had “no meaning” so long as regional oil continues to be exported. This was extrapolated by US officials as a threaten to shut down all regional oil shipping, when it could just as easily be interpreted as noting that Iran can basically export its oil under the guise of it coming from other regional countries, which is common behavior during sanctions.
The bellicose interpretation was virtually universal among US officials and media outlets, and echoed on Thursday when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards praised Rouhani’s statement, and said shipping of oil through the Strait was for “all or none.”
Again, this could be interpreted as a threat or a statement of policy. Iran is continuing to export oil despite US attempts to prevent them from doing so, and there is no reason to think they’re suddenly going to commit a series of acts of war in the Strait of Hormuz just to give the US a pretext to attack them. It is unsurprising that the US is using this as an excuse to issue a bunch of new statements about their military commitment, and is liable to be an excuse for more US naval operations along the Iranian coast.