Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

This is the Stena Impero, a British
oil tanker traveling through the Persian Gulf.
On July 19th 2019, it was on its way
to Saudi Arabia when it received a
radio message from Iranian naval forces.
Later, the Stena Impero was dramatically boarded and seized.
Using speed boats and
helicopters Iran’s Revolutionary Guard
took control of the British tanker and
took it to an Iranian port.
The Stena Impero isn’t alone. Several oil tankers have run into trouble in recent months.
Already troubled waters were further
roiled with attacks on two oil tankers.
Three Iranian vessels tried to block a
British tanker. An unnamed US official is
blaming Iran for explosions on four
Iran declared it has seized an Iraqi oil
tanker. Plot these incidents on a map and
you’ll see them centered around this
narrow ocean passage — the Strait of Hormuz.
Dozens of oil tankers pass
through here daily each carrying up to
84 million gallons of oil. This flow of
oil represents 20% of the world’s supply.
A former Iranian prime minister even
referred to this passage as the jugular
of the global economy. But these ships
and this narrow strip of ocean are
caught in the middle of a struggle – a
struggle between the U.S. and Iran.
One that has the potential to escalate and
to choke the global economy in the process.
The strait of hormuz lies between Iran
and Oman. It links the Persian Gulf to
the Gulf of Oman which eventually leads
to the Arabian Sea. At its narrowest the
strait is less than 34 kilometers wide
and oil tankers that pass through here
travel on a pair of shipping lanes each
three kilometers wide. Most of these
ships carry petroleum products from the
Middle East to the rest of the world
and in particular to Asia. But an attack on
any tanker here regardless of
destination can affect the price of oil
That’s because oil is a globally traded
product. A drop in supply from the Gulf
can drive up prices from other sources
around the world. After two recent oil
tankers were attacked in the Strait of
Hormuz the price of oil from the
North Sea jumped nearly $2 per barrel.
It’s because of this strategic
importance that the Strait of Hormuz has
become a place where long simmering
tensions between the u.s. and Iran are
playing out. And it all began with the
Tanker War.
Saddam Hussein ordered his
troops across the Iranian frontier after
a series of border skirmishes. War broke
out in the Middle East in 1980 after
Iraq invaded Iran. The US helped Iraq and
its campaign against Iran by providing
military intelligence behind the scenes.
When Iraq wasn’t able to topple Iranian
forces over land it turned its attention
elsewhere. Missiles against tankers
are the weapons that both sides are using to try and break the stalemate in their war
on land. Iraq moved to cut off Iran’s
main export. It began attacking tankers
carrying oil from Iranian ports in what
became known as the Tanker War.
Iran eventually responded by attacking oil
tankers moving to and from the
Gulf States some of which were supporting Iraq. But with Iraq being aided by the West
Iran had to get creative. It turned
to sea mines and planted them around the
Strait of Hormuz. For the first time Iran
was using the disruption of oil moving
through Hormuz as a weapon. But these
disruptions finally drew the u.s.
directly into the conflict.
In 1987 the u.s. stepped in to protect
the flow of oil for itself and its
allies by escorting tankers.
Tensions between the two countries began to escalate. In 1988 a u.s. naval ship
struck an Iranian mine injuring US
sailors on board. A couple months later a
u.s. warship mistook an Iranian
passenger aircraft for a fighter jet and
shot it down over the Strait of Hormuz
killing all 290 passengers.
Ronald Reagan has issued a statement deeply regretting the loss of life in what he calls a terrible human tragedy.
The iran-iraq war ended in
August 1988 but conflict between the
u.s. and Iran continued for decades and
tensions and distrust grew on both sides.
And a major source of that distrust was
Iran’s nuclear program.
By 2002 suspicions were growing in the
u.s. around Iran’s intentions.
By now Iran was fighting proxy wars around the Middle East and the u.s. feared an
Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into
the wrong hands.
Iran and their terrorist allies
constitute an axis of evil. By seeking
weapons of mass destruction these
regimes pose a grave and growing danger.
There were reports that Iran had
expansive and undisclosed nuclear
facilities like this one in Natanz and
this facility in Arak. Finally in 2011 a
UN report revealed that Iran has carried
out activities relevant to the
development of a nuclear explosive
device. The mutual distrust between the
u.s. and Iran boiled over. They have not
found even one gram of uranium to be
diverted to military purposes. Iran has
refused to satisfy legitimate concerns
about the nature of its nuclear program.
The u.s. announced sweeping sanctions
against Iran. President Obama signed an
executive order that for the first time
specifically targets Iran’s
petrochemical industry. Iran’s oil
exports dropped dramatically and with it
Iran’s income. The country’s economy
began to shrink for the first time in
nearly a decade.
To fight back Iran used the only
leverage it had — the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran threatened to close the passage
saying not a drop of oil will pass
through the Strait of Hormuz
if Iranian oil is sanctioned. And to back
its threat Iran’s navy conducted a ten
day show of force in the strait.
US naval forces followed suit
warning Iran that closing the strait
would not be tolerated. The threats are
being ramped up over a vital oil
shipping route. The chief of US Naval
Operations has told Al Jazeera his Navy
is capable of securing the Strait of
Hormuz should it need to. u.s. Navy
and the Coast Guard ships two close
encounters just last week. The Strait of
Hormuz was once again a tense conflict
zone between Iran and the US but this
time the two countries reached a
diplomatic solution. Today after two
years of negotiations the United States
together with our international partners has
achieved something that decades of
animosity has not — a comprehensive
long-term deal with Iran that will
prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
In 2015 Iran agreed to scale back
its nuclear program and to allow its
nuclear facilities to be monitored in
exchange for sanctions relief.
With sanctions lifted Iran’s oil exports
picked back up and Iran’s economy showed
signs of recovering until 2018.
I am announcing today that the
United States will withdraw from the Iran
nuclear deal. The fact is this was a
horrible one-sided deal that should have
never ever been made. Claiming the
original deal with Iran didn’t go far
enough in addressing Iran’s terrorist
proxy groups president Trump abandoned
the nuclear deal with Iran and put
sanctions back in place. The ongoing
conflict between the two countries has
turned Hormuz into a flashpoint once
again with tensions at levels not seen
since the Tanker War. Tensions with Iran have reached a boiling point.
Iran — trouble nothing but trouble. The
United States is not interested in
diplomacy period. President Trump says
the military was quote cocked and loaded
to carry out airstrikes against Iran.
Iran hopes that disrupting the passage
of these international tankers will put
pressure on countries to stick with the
nuclear deal while also putting pressure
on the u.s. to lift sanctions.
But without the direct diplomatic contact
between the u.s. and Iran each run-in
has the risk of escalating into war one
that could disrupt the jugular of the global economy in the process.


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