US containment efforts against Iran received a boost on Monday when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced US sanction waivers on nations currently importing Iranian oil are coming to an end. Put simply, the United States is attempting to prevent as many nations as possible from purchasing Iranian oil. The move is a dagger aimed at Iran’s economy, which is already in a fragile state. The Trump administration has had Iran in the crosshairs for some time now, and significant progress has been made in containing Iranian expansion and influence in the region. Revoking the sanctions, though an effective step, will certainly escalate the US-Iran confrontation. In fact, Tehran has already threatened to close down the Strait of Hormuz, a threat that is regularly voiced when expanded US economic sanctions are made against Iran.
This time around, the threat could be real, however. Iran’s economy will undoubtedly take a hit from the waiver action, even though China and perhaps even India will continue to purchase Iranian crude despite US wishes. Oil prices rose to six-month highs Tuesday on fears that the US crackdown on Iran will lower supply. Saudi Arabia has responded with assurances that oil producers will ensure supply levels remain at adequate levels.
Iran has likely taken note of the large US naval presence in the Mediterranean. Sixth Fleet exercises currently underway there have put a pair of US aircraft carriers within a few days sail of the Persian Gulf region. Having the USS Abraham Lincoln, and USS John C Stennis carrier strike groups in the region as tensions with Iran threaten to increase gives the Trump administration a powerful force to use if Tehran moves to close the Strait of Hormuz. For now, there are no indications either carrier group is preparing to head towards the Arabian Sea, If Iran’s threats continue, however, and naval activity around the strait increases, the US carriers will begin moving.