Iran is threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz if its oil exports are stopped, according to reports. The strait is the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and it is a busy shipping lane for oil. Iran previously said it would close the strait in July 2018 in a clash over US sanctions.
It comes after US President Donald Trump reimposed tough sanctions on Iran’s energy exports last year over its nuclear programme.
The Islamic Republic’s leader President Hassan Rouhani has branded them a “crime against humanity”.
Tehran is preparing to file a legal case against US officials who imposed the sanctions on the country as a precursor to action in the international courts.
Mr Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television the punitive measures had created difficulties including a weaker rial currency that has fed into higher inflation.
He said he had ordered the ministries of foreign affairs and justice “to file a legal case in Iranian courts against those in America who designed and imposed sanctions on Iran”.
Mr Rouhani added: “These sanctions are crime against humanity.”
If the Iranian court finds against the US officials, Iran will pursue the case in international courts of justice.
Previous Iranian complaints about sanctions in the international courts have been successful.
In October, judges at the International Court Of Justice (ICJ) ordered the US to ensure sanctions did not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.
Mr Rouhani said: “The Americans have only one goal: they want to come back to Iran and rule the nation again.”
He said his government had managed to “put a brake on the fall of rial” but that balance has not yet returned to the foreign currency market.