Iran is considering the possibility of spilling oil in the Persian Gulf in order to contaminate the waters of the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Sunday. The spill would be a way of "punishing" the West and forcing it to decrease the economic sanctions imposed against Tehran.
Citing Western intelligence sources, Der Spiegel reported that the plan, codenamed "Murky Waters," is meant to block shipping routes in the Gulf to international oil tankers.
In addition to driving up oil prices, the resulting environmental disaster would force Western countries to start a large-scale cleanup operation in cooperation with Iran, which could reduce the sanctions currently placed on the country.
The plan was developed by the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, and Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, according to the report.
Der Spiegel reported that the decision on whether or not to implement the plan was now in the hands of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran cuts imports of non-essential goods amid sanctions
In an additional attempt to ease the sanctions imposed on it by the West, Tehran said it would seek to cut imports of non-essential goods and urged its citizens to reduce their use of foreign-made mobile telephones and cars.
The policies suggest the government is moving the economy onto an austerity footing to resist the sanctions, which have been imposed over Iran's controversial nuclear program and have slashed its income from oil exports this year.
Authorities have divided imports into 10 categories based on how essential they are, and will provide importers with dollars at a subsidised rate to buy basic goods, Deputy Industry Minister Hamid Safdel was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Meanwhile, importers of goods in two non-essential categories will have to obtain dollars at much more expensive rates on the open market, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) quoted him as saying.
Goods in these two categories include cigarette papers, wallpaper, mobile phones, luggage, clothing and cars, ISNA reported. It said about $10 to $12 billion was spent annually on importing luxury and non-essential goods into Iran.
Industry Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari urged Iranians on Saturday to limit their use of such goods and turn to domestic manufacturers to help the government cope with sanctions.
"If we move towards reducing the import of goods in these categories, which are not so necessary, we can save foreign exchange," Ghazanfari said, according to the Mehr news agency. "If people do not use these goods, the need for currency for them would drop to zero."