“We’ve developed very precise and lethal weapons that are very effective, and we’re prepared,” Fox said. “We’re just ready for any contingency.”
Faced with tightening Western sanctions, Iranian officials have stepped up threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the country’s oil exports are blocked. A fifth of the world’s oil supply passes through the narrow waterway, which is only about 30 miles across at its narrowest point.
Iran and Oman share control of the waterway, but it is considered an international strait, meaning free passage is guaranteed.
Iran’s army chief, Gen. Ataollah Salehi, early last month warned an American warship not to return to the Gulf shortly after the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and another vessel left. Another carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, entered the Gulf without incident Jan. 22.
Fox acknowledged that Iran’s military is “capable of striking a blow” against American forces in the Gulf, particularly using unconventional means such as small attack boats or mines laid along shipping lanes.
“We’re not bulletproof. There are people that can take a swipe at us,” Fox said.
But he added that he has reminded officers under his command that they “have a right and an obligation of self defense” if attacked.
The admiral’s comments echo those of other Western officials, who say they will respond swiftly to any Iranian attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” last month that Iranian forces could block shipping through the strait “for a period of time,” but added, “We can defeat that.”
Fox’s command encompasses the bulk of the Middle East, including the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and a large swath of the Indian Ocean along the east African coast. There are about 25,000 sailors under his command.
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