Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced to the world yesterday that his country is ready to begin a blockade of Iranian oil shipments. Such a move would be crippling for the Iranian economy. The embattled politician made the threat at a navy cadets’ graduation ceremony in Haifa on Wednesday.
“Iran is trying to bypass the sanctions on it through the covert smuggling of petroleum via the sea. As these attempts expand, the navy will have a more important role in efforts to block these Iranian actions,” Netanyahu said.
Iranian oil, shipping, and banking industries have been embargoed since November last year when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA aka “Iran Nuclear Deal”) alleging that Iran had violated the agreement. In truth, the European signatories all reject Trump’s claim and stand by the International Atomic Energy Agency which says they were in compliance.
Initially, the US demanded a zero global consumption of Iranian oil. If any state was caught using Iranian oil, the US threatened to sanction them as well. This tactic failed as many states were unwilling to engage in a total embargo. This forced the US to grant exceptions too numerous countries, showing their policy to be a failure.
Israel isn’t known to have a large navy capable of carrying out such an act. Regardless, it would require them to expand their areas of operation into the Strait of Hormuz, which would violate Iranian territorial waters. For their part, Iran has announced its intentions to defend themselves from any incursions by the Israeli military.
The claim by Netanyahu comes at a time when he and his wife are embroiled in corruption and bribery charges. He has been indicted for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, charges related to three different corruption cases. In one of the cases, he bribed a news website for positive coverage. The charges couldn’t come at a worse time: as the leader of the extremist Lukid Party, he’s seeking a fourth term as prime minister.
Many suspect that this recent move by Netanyahu to scare the Israeli public into supporting and voting for him. Raising the spectre of Iran has been successful in the past to send the message that the Lukid Party, and thus himself, are the only ones capable of defending Israel from “Iranian aggression”.