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"The Obama administration is relying on a secret channel of communication to warn Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that closing the Strait of Hormuz is a 'red line' that would provoke an American response," unnamed U.S. government officials tell The New York Times.
Iran, under pressure from the U.S. and its allies to open up its nuclear program for inspection and give up any ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, has in recent weeks threatened to close that strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. About 20 percent of the world's oil flows through there on tankers.
The U.S. and Iran have not had direct diplomatic relations since 1980.
As for the strait's importance, The Atlantic takes a look at alternative ways of getting oil from the region out to the world. There are some pipelines and plans for more, but none would make up in the short-term for a disruption of shipments through the strait.
Also today, Voice of America and some other news outlets are reporting that officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency plan to be in Tehran later this month to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions with Iranian officials.