What are the risks in the Strait of Hormuz?


Tensions between the United States, Iran and other countries flared up again in the United States Strait of Hormuz.

exist Competing interpretations What happens in the narrow sea lane that passes through it 21% Of the world’s crude oil is now passing through.

Most reports Tanks attackedAnd the Smuggled oil And the Drones shot down Includes Iran and the United States. But the oil and the tankers in question also belong to other countries, including JapanAnd the Norway And the United kingdom

as such A researcher studies marine strategic choke points Like this in the Middle East, I consider the constant skirmishes in this waterway to be classic examples of the use of Iran Hybrid warfare Unconventional tactics that are too subtle to lead to military retaliation.

Waterway 21 miles wide

This 21-mile wide channel connects the Indian Ocean with the Gulf. Throughout recorded history, Arab and Persian civilizations were linked to the Indian subcontinent and Asia and the Pacific. For example, before the rise of European seaborne empires in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Chinese porcelain and spices from the Indochina Peninsula often passed through the strait en route to Central Asia and Europe.

Strait of Hormuz.

Today the Strait of Hormuz separates Iran from The countries of Oman And the The United Arab Emirates, Which has strong military ties with the United States.

All freight traffic from Energy-rich Gulf states Converge in the strait, including crude and LNG exports From Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This sea lane became a battleground during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Each side in what is called “Tanker warThey tried to dump energy exports to the other side. To avoid targeting Kuwaiti oil The tanker flag was raised Under the US Register of Shipping, which obscures their true ownership.

Despite the continued flow of crude oil, marine insurance rates for ships operating in the strait increased As much as 400%.

Iranian smugglers in the strait in 2012.
REUTERS / Ahmed Jadallah

what is happening now?

The recent conflicts in the Strait of Hormuz arose after the Trump administration’s decision to leave the Strait of Hormuz Iran nuclear deal in a May 2018. When Iran struck This agreement in 2015 With the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany and the European Union, they have agreed to restrict their nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of the economic sanctions imposed on them.

By July 2018, Iran had the Threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz To avenge the escalation US sanctions Against it.

By engaging in Hybrid warfareIran appears to have already begun to disrupt trade flows across the strait and raise the diplomatic stakes.

It is worth mentioning that June 2019 attacks on Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tehran coincided. Iran denies any involvement in the attacks, but the United States released video footage it said showed Iranian special forces being removed An unexploded mine From one of the tanker hulls – he claimed it was likely doing so to remove evidence.

In my opinion, if Iran did indeed carry out the attacks, it could be a signal to influential Asian powers, in particular Japan And the China, That they need more pressure on the Trump administration to ease sanctions against Iran – or risk disrupting vital oil and gas exports to Asia through the Strait of Hormuz.

To be sure, Iran will have a problem Stop all shipping across the strait. Modern cargo ships are huge and difficult to disable. Unlike the 1980s, most oil tankers now have double hulls, which makes them much more difficult to sink. Moreover, the United States is building A. Multinational alliance To protect commercial shipping transiting the Strait of Hormuz as well as waters around Yemen.

And the fact that Both the United States and Iran They say they want to find a file Diplomatic solution It indicates that neither side wants to see the conflict escalate into an all-out war.

Are consumers in the United States and other countries likely to suffer because of these tensions in the Strait of Hormuz? Until now, this has not been the case in terms of fuel costs. World oil And the Natural gas prices Decreased in the first six months of 2019 Despite the tensions in the Gulf Obligatory to Growth in width.

Portions of this article appeared in a related article published in July 9, 2018.

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