Iranian Chief of Staff Gen. Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi said on Saturday that Iran is prepared for a situation in which it would need to close the Strait of Hormuz, but would not do so unless the country’s interests were seriously at risk.

The chief of staff clarified to Iran’s ISNA news agency that Tehran has a plan for closing the strait, just has it has various other military plans for different situations.

He also highlighted the importance of the strait, and said that Iran was acting rationally.

More than a third of the world’s seaborne oil exports pass through the narrow Strait of Hormuz from the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Qatar’s liquefied natural gas exports are all shipped through Hormuz.

The United States has quietly increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf to deter Tehran from trying to shut the strait, according to a New York Times report published on Tuesday.

Linking the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean, the strait is used to transport about a fifth of the world’s oil on a daily basis, and the popular assessment within the IDF is that Iran – which borders the channel to the north and east – could shut it down.

Citing a senior Obama administration official, the report stated that the deployment of a number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iranian territory was partly done to reassure Israel that the US is taking the Iranian threat seriously. “When the president says there are other options on the table beyond negotiations, he means it,” the report quoted the official as saying.

The report identified a number of visible elements of the US buildup in the Persian Gulf, including sending increasing numbers of aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor, which boasts stealth capabilities, to two bases there. The planes join jets and carrier strike groups already in the area.

According to the report, the the US Navy has also been sending advanced ships capable of enhancing the American ability to patrol the strait and reopen the waterway should Iran block shipping. In addition, the navy sent a converted amphibious transport and docking ship and doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region.

“The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it,’” the Times quoted a senior US Defense Department official as saying on condition of anonymity. “Don’t even think about closing the strait. We’ll clear the mines. Don’t even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We’ll put them on the bottom of the gulf.”

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