Possible attacks on the Strait of Hormuz could have serious impact on Gulf oil flows, commander says.
A senior Iranian commander said on Monday "martyrdom-seeking" militia would be able to disrupt oil shipping routes in the strategic Gulf, noting such "a small operation can have a big outcome".
The suggestion of possible suicide attacks in the Gulf comes amid growing tension over Iran's nuclear programme. The United States has not ruled out using force if diplomacy fails to end the row while Iran has vowed to respond to any attack.
"The area of Persian Gulf and strategic Strait of Hormuz is such that a small operation can have a big outcome," Brigadier General Ali Fahdavi told a rally of the Basij religious militia, Fars News Agency reported.
"The Basiji's culture has the advantage of the martyrdom-seeking spirit," said Fahdavi at a ceremony marking the death of a 13-year-old Basij who died trying to destroy a tank in the 1980s war with Iraq.
The Basij militia comes under the command of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the ideological wing of the military. Fahdavi is deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards' naval force.
The militia has said in the past that it could, if pushed, disrupt oil flows in the Gulf and the narrow Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the oil-producing region.
"The future of the world's energy is in this region. Therefore, the importance of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz is not comparable with anywhere else," Fahdavi said.
Iran is locked in a standoff with the West, which accuses Tehran of seeking atomic bombs. Iran says its nuclear aims are peaceful and that it would respond to any US attack, including targeting US interests.
The Basijis are a paramilitary force who loyally uphold Islamic revolutionary values. In the war with Iraq, they provided much of the manpower for the front. In peacetime, they help enforce Iran's strict Islamic dress and other moral codes.
"The quantity of Basijis is not important, what is important is quality of their presence because each one of them can carry out big actions," Fahdavi said.