The United States warned the Iranian government Wednesday that the closure of the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated after Iran threatened to do so if sanctions were put in place.

According to Reuters, Iran's navy chief Habibollah Sayyari told the government's English-language Press TV that Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran's armed forces is really easy ... or as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water.

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow strip of water between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, 34 miles across at its narrowest.  It is the main waterway for petroleum exports from the Persian Gulf, with approximately 15.5 million barrels of oil passing through the strait each day.

The United States, along with the European Union, has long accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, an accusation which Iran denies, claiming its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as generating electricity and medical research.

Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz by barricading it with a variety of ships and surface-to-sea missiles.  If that were to occur, ships would have to travel significantly longer distances in order to obtain oil, which would mean much higher prices at the pump.  The U.S. Fifth Fleet, stationed in Bahrain, told Reuters that they would not let that happen.

Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated, the fleet said.

Oil prices spiked Wednesday over $101 per barrel but later receded to $99.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the country in a speech Wednesday, however, that he would not back down on the nuclear program. We will not yield to pressure to abandon our rights, he said. The Iranian nation will not withdraw from its right (to nuclear technology) even one iota because of the pressures.

President Barack Obama is currently working on new sanctions against the country. According to the New York Times, he is drafting a measure that would penalize foreign partners if they did business with Iran's central bank, which processes oil export payments.

A British Foreign Office spokesman told Reuters that the threat to the straits was basically posturing. Iranian politicians regularly use this type of rhetoric to distract attention from the real issue, which is the nature of their nuclear program.