The Strait of Hormuz.
The Strait of Hormuz is a strategic shipping route through the Persian Gulf. Photo by AP
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Iran's warnings that it could blockade the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the only exit from the Gulf, are not a bluff, the head of Iran's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday.

Some 20 per cent of global oil exports are estimated to pass through the strait, and Iran has warned that it could retaliate against external aggression by making the waterway impassable.

"The West might think we are just bluffing with the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz but we already have some good plans how to do that," General Hassan Firouzabadi was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.

While a blockade of the strait by Iran is a theoretical option, the move would also stop Iran's own oil exports - the country's main source of income. It would also increase the likelihood of a military confrontation with the United States.
"We have no imminent plans to bloc the Hormuz but it's the armed forces' duty to be prepared for every scenario," the general said.

"However the final decision whether to block the Hormuz or not lies in the hands of the supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) after consultations with the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)," he said.

Iran's armed forces have several times warned that Tehran might consider such a move if its interests were jeopardized, but the Iranian foreign ministry has so far played down the warnings and said that Tehran would not endanger global oil exports.

A similar warning came last week from the Teheran parliament, with a bill being drafted to authorize closure of the strait in response to EU embargoes on the country's oil exports. The bill has not yet been presented to the legislative body.