The US has warned Iran that any attempt to block oil tankers travelling through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated.

Iran had threatened to disrupt the world’s most vital oil-trade route after sanctions were imposed on it due to its nuclear programme.

Around 15.5 million barrels-a-day (b/d) of oil pass through the Strait of Hormuz from the Middle East’s main oil producing states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain. This accounts for around 40 per cent of the world’s tanker-transported oil and makes up around 50 per cent of the oil exported to China.  

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain and a spokesman has said that it will act to counter any attempt by Iran to disrupt oil traffic.

Iran has reacted furiously to recent sanctions, but defence experts think it unlikely that Tehran has the naval power to block the Strait of Hormuz against US counter measures.

Other sanctions being considered by western nations include blocking the sale of Iranian oil. However, this is unlikely to happen as it would drive up oil prices and ultimately aid Tehran.