A Saudi Arabian official attempted to undercut one of Iran's most potent threats to the world community Monday when he said in an interview that his country would make up for any oil production shortfalls caused by Iranian actions.
As international pressure on Iran over its nuclear program increases, the Islamic Republic has threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, through which 17 million barrels of oil passed per day in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
Speaking to CNN, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said his country could boost production enough to meet that potential shortfall, and he also expressed doubt that Iran could succeed in closing the strait at all.
"I personally do not believe that the strait, if it were shut, will be shut for any length of time. The world cannot stand for that," he said.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been in a bitter struggle in recent years as each seeks greater influence in regional affairs. Often, the Shiites of Iran and the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia side with their ethnic kin in regional disputes, and Iran's growing nuclear program has become a major point of contention.
While the Iranians insist their nuclear program is for civilian purposes, Saudi Arabia is among the many in the international community who do not believe them.
In June of last year, a senior official in Riyadh: "We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."
The Saudi threat to boost oil production has already rattled some in the Iranian government. If the Saudis make good on the threat, the country's OPEC envoy threatened Saudi Arabia and other states who might follow suit, according to Al Jazeera.
"We would not consider these actions to be friendly," Mohammad Ali Khatibi said on Saturday, according to Sharq newspaper. "They will be held responsible for what happens ... one cannot predict the consequences."