(JTA) — Britain signaled it is prepared to use force to keep the Strait of Hormuz open despite Iranian threats.
In comments Thursday, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said his country would not tolerate an Iranian move to close the 34-mile waterway through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.
"Alongside the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Gulf, we have naval assets, we have mine counter-measures capability, we have a frigate present there, and we are an integrated part of the allied naval task force in the Gulf and one of the missions of that task force is to ensure that those shipping lanes remain open," Hammond told Sky News.
Iran has made rumblings about closing the strait in recent days as international sanctions have intensified over concerns about the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program. Earlier in the week, Iran test-fired missiles in the course of several days of naval exercises in the strait.
Also Thursday, the Israeli military announced it was gearing up for a major missile defense excercise with American forces, the Associated Press reported. The drill, which Israel said was planned long before the Iranian excercises, will involve thousands of troops and will test multiple missile defense systems. Officials of both countries said the excercises would be the largest-ever joint drill.