TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian military commander called on Islamic countries to cut oil exports to Israel’s supporters in response to the Jewish state’s offensive in Gaza, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday.
IRNA said commander Bagherzadeh described oil as a commodity that could put pressure on Israel’s European and American backers in the “unequal war” faced by Palestinians in the coastal strip.
“Pointing at Westerners’ dependence on the Islamic countries’ oil and energy resources, he (Bagherzadeh) called for cutting the export of crude oil to the Zionist regime’s supporters the world over,” IRNA said, referring to Israel.
IRNA gave only the commander’s last name but it may have been referring to Mirfeysal Bagherzadeh, a brigadier-general of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. He is also head of Iran’s Foundation for the Preservation of Works and Publications of Sacred Defense Values, IRNA said.
There was no immediate comment from other Iranian officials.
Iran, which often rails against the United States and Israel, is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and a leading member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants battled in Gaza on Sunday after Israeli troops and tanks invaded the coastal enclave in the most serious fighting in the conflict in decades.
Israel’s attacks on Gaza have sparked repeated protests in Iran, an Islamic state which does not recognize Israel.
In 1973, Arab countries directed an oil embargo at Israel’s supporters in the Arab-Israeli war, including the United States and Japan. The move caused the first oil shock with the price of crude quadrupling to almost $12 a barrel.
Oil is now trading around $46 after plunging by $100 since July on the global financial crisis and weakening economies.
London-based energy consultant Mehdi Varzi said the world was now less dependent on OPEC oil and questioned the effectiveness of any new embargo.
Non-Arab exporters such as Nigeria would not take part and countries like Saudi Arabia would try to avoid it as their long-term interest was to maintain market stability, he said.
“You would expect hardliners to issue such words but as a practical policy I don’t think it would be very effective,” Varzi said.
Iran is embroiled in a row with the West over its nuclear program and has in the past threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic transport route for global oil supplies, if it is attacked by the United States or Israel.
Additional reporting and writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jon Boyle