The Strait of Hormuz is a 33km wide strait, with the Northern part controlled by Iran and the Southern by Oman and UAE, who jointly share the territorial rights over the waters. A former Iranian Prime Minister termed it as the Jugular of the World Economy. Let’s discuss how this narrow shipping route in the Gulf region is of strategic importance and center at rising tensions to chock the world economy.
Facilitating world’s 20% supply of oil or around 21 million barrels every day, the Strait of Hormuz is of immense importance to the world economies. It also records the transportation of more than one-quarter of global liquefied natural gas trade. Geographically the Strait connects the Gulf with the Arabian Sea. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an average of 14 crude oil ships pass through the 2 strips of 3 km lane every day; taking oil to destinations particularly in Asia including the likes of India, Japan, China, and South Korea. A seizure or attack on any tanker here will affect the prices of oil everywhere. Often, this site is prone to rigorous conflicts by the neighboring countries. Recently there were various high-end incidents which led to the upcoming of closure threats of the Strait. Let us uncover them.
On July 19, 2019, a British oil tanker named the Stena Impero was on its way to Saudi Arabia when it was dramatically boarded and seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The forces took its control and took it to the Iranian port. Among the other incidents were the US forces destroying an Iranian drone that came close to the USS Boxer or there were incidents of destruction of two tankers by explosions or the four tankers which were hit by blasts within the UAE’s territorial waters or the US proposing for the airstrike after Iran shot its drone in the International waters. Plotting these incidents on the map shows a clear demarcation that how these are grossly centered at the Strait of Hormuz. But why is the US struggling for conflicts in the gulf? It all started in the ‘Tanker War’.
There are major 3 reasons due to increasing tensions between Iran and the US:
Firstly, when Iraq invaded Iran in the Middle East War 1980, the US provided reclusive intelligence support to Iran. Iraq moved to cut out Iran’s main export by attacking tankers which came to be known as the ‘Tanker war’. Iran was confronted by weapons moving through the Hormuz. While the attention drew in 1987, the US started escorting these tankers for itself and its allies resulting in tension between the two nations.
Secondly, in 1988, a US ship was stuck in an Iranian mine; this incident injured US sailors on board. After a couple of months, a passenger plane from Iran was mistaken as a fighter jet and was shot down by US warship leading to the death of all passengers.
Thirdly or I should say majorly, was the Iran-Nuclear program. Iran was criticized for developing a nuclear weapon. The world claimed that these might fall into wrong hands as Iran and their ally corresponds evil.
In response to all the existing problems in 2011, President Obama signed sweeping sanctions which led to a decrease in Iran’s exports and GDP. As a result of this Iran was short of Assets but had just one asset to revolt on, that was, the Strait of Hormuz. Iran threatened for the closure of the Strait and claimed that it wouldn’t let even a single drop oil of oil to pass through it. Eventually, a great negotiation was signed known as the Nuclear Deal. It stated that Iran will turn in all nuclear programs in exchange for sanctions revealed. In 2018, US President Donald Trump withdrew back from the deal, lifting the sanctions again. This has turned to take the risk situation in the Strait of Hormuz to boiling points and thus, in approaching to diversify the alternatives to strait route, several pipelines such as Petroline, UAE pipeline, Trans-Arabian pipeline, East-West pipeline, etc. have been playing an active role. Nonetheless, Strait of Hormuz has proven to be of strategic importance and it is extremely difficult to replace it by any means.
Currently, in the attack of drones targeted to damage the world’s biggest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia; run by Aramco, the US openly alleges Iran for the wrongdoing. Though the Iran-US relations will go long a smooth shift only when the sanctions are being lifted, a meet of President Trump and Iran’s President Rouhani is a must to defuse tensions. But this seems farfetched as they have discounted the possibility of the meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week which subsides the never-ending debate for world peace.