Last Updated: Fri Jan 13, 2012 20:21 pm (KSA) 17:21 pm (GMT)

U.S. warns Iran’s Khamenei over Hormuz; Russia opposes military action against Tehran

As many as 16 million barrels of oil pass through the strategic Strait of Hormuz every day. (File photo)
As many as 16 million barrels of oil pass through the strategic Strait of Hormuz every day. (File photo)

The Obama administration is relying on a secret channel of communication to warn Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that closing the Strait of Hormuz is a “red line” that would provoke an American response, the New York Times reported on Friday citing United States government officials who declined to describe the unusual contact between the two governments, and whether there had been an Iranian reply.

Senior Obama administration officials have said publicly that Iran would cross a “red line” if it made good on recent threats to close the Strait of Hormuz.

As many as 16 million barrels of oil pass through the strategic waterway every day.

The New York Times report said that the secret communications channel was chosen to underscore privately to Iran the depth of American concern about rising tensions over the strait, where American naval officials say their biggest fear is that an overzealous Revolutionary Guards naval captain could do something provocative on his own, setting off a larger crisis.

Meanwhile, Russia would regard any military intervention linked to Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its own security, Moscow’s departing ambassador to NATO warned on Friday.

“Iran is our neighbor,” Dmitry Rogozin told reporters in Brussels, according to Reuters. “And if Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.”

Rogozin was speaking two days after the killing of a nuclear scientist in Tehran by a hitman on a motorcycle.

Kremlin Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev, who is close to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said Israel was pushing the United States towards war with Iran, according to the Interfax news agency.

Russia, however, opposes a boycott of Iranian oil.

“We are definitely interested in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” Rogozin said on Friday. “But at the same time, we believe that any country has the right to have what it needs to feel comfortable, including Iran.”

Rogozin, often described as an anti-Western hawk, was appointed deputy prime minister in December, and will oversee Russia’s defense sector when he returns to Moscow.

The United States, the European Union and Japan are drawing up sanctions on Iran to try to force it to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program. Tehran says its program does not have military aims.

The United States on Thursday took punitive action against three oil companies dealing with Iranian oil.

EU foreign ministers are expected to agree on a ban on imports of Iranian crude oil on Jan. 23 - though with a grace period to give European companies time to find alternative sources of crude.

Japan on Thursday pledged to take concrete action to cut its oil imports from Iran.

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