Iran's Revolutionary Guards launched three-day drills yesterday (2 July) to test missiles capable of hitting targets as far away as Israel, one day after the European Union put into effect its embargo of Iranian oil.
The EU and the United States began imposing tough new sanctions on Iran’s oil industry this month, with the aim to inflict such economic pain that Iran’s leaders get serious about an international deal to curtail the country’s advancing nuclear programme.
But with officials from six world powers meeting with their Iranian counterparts in Istanbul today to gauge prospects for an agreement, Iran replied with ballistic missile drills.
The country routinely conducts military drills because of concerns over the continuing crisis in Syria, Iran's closest ally in the Arab world, and the near-failed nuclear talks with the West.
Draft bill to block Hormuz Strait to oil tankers
Meanwhile, Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has drafted a bill calling for Iran to try to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support sanctions against it, a committee member said on Monday.
The Iranian parliament is vocal and sees itself as independent but does not hold much power. Bills are unlikely to get far unless sanctioned by the leadership.
"There is a bill prepared in the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Parliament that stresses the blocking of oil tanker traffic carrying oil to countries that have sanctioned Iran," Iranian MP Ibrahim Agha-Mohammadi was quoted by Iran's parliamentary news agency as saying.
"This bill has been developed as an answer to the European Union's oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Agha-Mohammadi said that 100 of Tehran's 290 members of parliament had signed the bill as of Sunday.
However no details were given on how Iran would verify the destination of every ship passing out of the Gulf under the watchful eye of the US Navy.
Iranian threats to block the waterway through which about 17 million barrels a day sailed in 2011 have grown in the past year as US and European sanctions aimed at starving Tehran of funds for its nuclear programme have tightened.
A heavy western naval presence in the Gulf and surrounding area is a big impediment to any attempt to block the vital shipping route through which sails most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq and nearly all the gas exported from Qatar.