Senior Iranian lawmakers stepped up threats today that Islamic Republic warships could block the Persian Gulf's oil tanker traffic after the latest blow by Western leaders seeking to rein in Tehran's nuclear program: A punishing oil embargo by the European Union that sharply raises the economic stakes for Iran's defiance. A member of Iran's influential national security committee in parliament said today that the Strait of Hormuz "would definitely be closed if the sale of Iranian oil is violated in any way."
Another senior lawmaker said Iran has the right to shutter Hormuz in retaliation for oil sanctions and that the closure was increasingly probable, according to the semiofficial Mehr news agency. "In case of threat, the closure of the Strait of Hormuz is one of Iran's rights," he said. Pressure is bearing down on the clerical regime from many directions, including intense US lobbying to urge Asian powers to shun Iranian crude, a nose-diving national currency and a recent slaying in what Iran calls a clandestine campaign against its nuclear establishment.