TIC Analysis l
In past two months, a series of maritime frays have occurred and become the source of concerns for world. On June 13, two oil tanker were attacked which were travelling in the Gulf of Oman. Tankers were belonged to Norway and Japan. US immediately accused Iran of patronizing the attacks whereas Iran strongly denied. After few days, purportedly US drone hovering around the same place was shot down by Iran. UK government also accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps of failed attempt to seize a British tanker in Persian Gulf. Moreover, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps reportedly claimed that a foreign vessel was seized by them in waters south of Iran and images of the seized ship was also released appeared to be UAE-bases ship. Besides, Iran, reportedly, also seized two British tanker ships near Iran. One of them was “Mesdar” which was released shortly after and other was “The Stena Impero” which remained in the Custody of Iran.
These maritime scuffles are the Strait of Hormuz centered which is geographically located under the direct operational range of Iran. Strait of Hormuz is the narrow body of water that connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman linked with Arabian Sea and the rest of the world. Though the Strait of Hormuz appears to be tiny as its narrowest point is around 21 miles but it is strategically, economically and geopolitically crucial chokepoint.
After imposing sanctions on Iran in pretext of nuclear proliferation, US started to impede Iran’s oil sales and supply in world market to strangle its economy. Iran left with no option but to use the Strait of Hormuz as a weapon. In response to sanctions, Iran threatened to interfere in transportation of ships travelling through the strait. In the wake of rising tension between Iran and US led west, the Strait of Hormuz seemingly becoming the new battlefield and operational area for rivals. This body of water is not only significant for Iran and Gulf countries but also vital for the US owing to its economic, strategic and neo-imperialistic stakes.
On July 18 of current year, President Donald Trump claimed to shot down an Iranian drone that came closer to US warship though Iran denied it. Right after the drone incident, President Donald Trump reviewed the US presence and called on multiple countries including Japan and China to take necessary measures to protect their ships travelling through the Strait of Hormuz. Moreover, Trump also questioned the role of US in protecting the shipping lanes for other countries without any incentive or compensation. President Trump signaled the change via tweet “We don’t even need to be there in that the US has just become (by far) the largest producer of Energy anywhere in the world”.
In the light of these developments and current circumstances, it can be gauged that US is following the particular design to not only weaponing the Strait of Hormuz but also involving other countries to establish a NATO kind of organization exclusively mandated to work in international waters. By calling out other countries to take the charge of protection of their interests and painting itself with leading role, the US appears to be on the way of maximum securitization of the Strait of Hormuz. According to reports of Reuters, the US has been trying to get allies to set up a surveillance system of shipping lanes on the Strait of Hormuz to prevent Iran from attacking vessels and watercrafts. This course is being termed as US Strait of Hormuz mission or US Gulf mission that has already been joined by Australia and UK. British navy claimed to has sent its third Royal Navy vessel to the Persian Gulf to protect commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
On the other hand, Iran does not seem to engage in all-out conventional war with US given its stronger military position. Instead, Iran is more likely to disrupt traffic and transportation in the Strait of Hormuz in case war erupts among rival. By doing so, Iran has to pay high cost. At least 1,000 mines with submarines and surface craft along the chokepoint will be required to close down the strait. Apparently, disruption in oil traffic would make oil importers to look beyond the Middle East for their sources. It would ultimately reduce the reliance on the region. It is noteworthy to mention that Iran is already suffering in oil export.
Seemingly, both countries have chalked out the feasibilities to confront each other in the Strait of Hormuz. After inclusion of other countries like UK and Australia, Strait of Hormuz appears to be a next battlefield. Regardless of disastrous implication for both gulfs, rival states are all set to operate militarily in event of war.