Hardline Iranian editor suggests closing Strait of Hormuz over Mahsa Amini protests

The narrow waterway at the mouth of the Arabian Gulf has had a number of tense encounters over the years

In this image released by the US Navy, (L-R) the aircrat carries USS Nimitz, the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton and guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett transits the Strait of Hormuz on September 18, 2020. - The Nimitz group passed the Strait of Hormuz to enter the Gulf on September 18, amid Washington threats to enforce "UN" sanctions without the backing of Security Council partners, the US Navy announced. The strike group led by the Nimitz and including two guided-missile cruisers and a guided-missile destroyer sailed into the Gulf to operate and train with US partners and support the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, the US 5th Fleet said in a statement. (Photo by Indra Beaufort / US NAVY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Indra Beaufort" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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A hardline newspaper close to Iran’s ruling clerics on Wednesday suggested that authorities close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for global energy supplies, in response to alleged foreign support for the nationwide protests gripping the country.

The suggestion came from the editor-in-chief of the Kayhan newspaper, who is appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in an editorial considered to be a trial balloon.

“Closing the Strait of Hormuz to western countries’ oil tankers and commercial vessels is Iran’s legal right,” Hossein Shariatmadari wrote.

“We can even seize a part of their commercial cargo as compensation for the financial damage they have done to our country.”

It is not the first time Mr Shariatmadari has proposed closing the strait, through which about a third of all oil traded by sea passes.

There have been a number of tense encounters over the years within the narrow waterway at the mouth of the Arabian Gulf.

Any attempt to close it would risk a major confrontation with the US, which has pledged to ensure the free flow of commerce, and could shake international oil markets.

The latest comments out of Tehran come a few days after maritime forces from Iraq, Kuwait and the US completed a joint patrol in the Arabian Gulf on Sunday, making it the second time in four months that the three countries have patrolled together to promote regional maritime security, the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet said.

The 5th Fleet’s operating area covers 21 countries bordering the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points — the Strait of Hormuz, Bab Al Mandeb and the Suez Canal.

The protests in Iran erupted in September after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been detained by Iran’s morality police for allegedly contravening strict dress codes for women.

The demonstrations rapidly spread across the country and mark one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power.

At least 494 protesters have been killed since September and more than 18,000 have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has been closely monitoring the unrest.

At least 62 security forces have been killed, it said. Iranian authorities have given a far higher death toll for security personnel, blaming attacks on unnamed separatists and militants.

Iran has executed two people convicted of violent crimes linked to the protests. One of them was publicly hanged from a crane earlier this week in a warning to others.

Updated: December 15, 2022, 8:34 AM