Does the ‘Tanker War’ in the Strait of Hormuz Threaten the World?

The decision of the authorities of the British territory of Gibraltar to refuse to extend the detention of the Iranian tanker Grace I was unpleasant news for the US authorities, who had previously issued a unilateral warrant for its arrest. It was also a new turn in the on-going “tanker war” in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the most important and busiest sea arteries in the world. Almost 20% the world’s oil is transported through the Strait of Hormuz from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, as well as almost all of the liquefied natural gas produced by Qatar.

In July of this year, after the detention of an Iranian tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar, the Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) detained a British tanker in Iranian territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz. A new round of tension occurred amid continued US pressure on Iran following a series of tanker incidents in the Gulf of Oman. Many people have come to wonder: will it come to real military clashes?

Iranian Nuclear Deal: Twists and Turns of Fate
Alexander Maryasov
The United States continues to believe that its withdrawal from the JCPOA and tougher sanctions will seriously aggravate Iran’s domestic socio-economic problems and would force Tehran to negotiate the nuclear issues and other matters on Washington’s terms.

Expert Opinions

Donald Trump’s predecessors were quick to unleash new armed conflicts after coming to power. However, the current US president prefers other levers: economic (given his business past) and political ones. In this situation, it seems that neither side is interested in escalating the conflict, but there are still risks of a negative scenario.

Unfortunately, the US tradition of starting a war before elections threatens to foil this argument. This is because replacing the president during a military conflict seem rather risky. A common enemy, as a rule, is a force capable of uniting a nation. For example, Barack Obama launched joint operations with European allies in Libya in 2011, and George W. Bush did so in Iraq in 2003.

At the same time, we can say that military operations, which begin primarily in the information field, can indeed intensify the situation and create the necessary conditions for the emergence of a real conflict. At the same time, it is rather difficult to predict the reaction of countries that can be used to provoke and sabotage this initiative. Any provocation on the part of a third party (such as, for example, the destruction of a tanker) can lead to immediate armed intervention, regardless of how long it takes to find out the causes of these events.

As for the Russian position, at the end of July the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented the Russian concept of collective security in the Persian Gulf. The steps announced by the Russian Foreign Ministry could help overcome the present crisis in relations with Iran. Joining forces with Iran to counter transnational threats could offer effective measures aimed at stabilising the situation. According to the Iranian establishment, the Russian plan to guarantee security in the Persian Gulf has been drawn up in such a way, that it can ensure the interests of the countries of the region. In this connection, we can assume that both countries are primarily interested in pursuing the goal of peacekeeping. After each incident, there is a debate about the whereabouts, for example, of a British tanker or an American drone, etc. If there’d been observers present, then, most likely, these disputes could have been avoided.

Security in the Gulf Area: Russia’s New Initiative
Andrei Baklanov
Russia is conducting relevant work in this direction and is ready to provide a platform for negotiations between the nations of the Middle East. The key question is whether the region’s politicians are aware of the danger of the situation, and whether they are ready to stop accusing each other and start a dialogue.

Expert Opinions

The United States proposed the creation of an international coalition, ostensibly in order to ensure freedom of navigation. It is developing a security plan for all interested countries which could take part in this project financially. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel were immediately invited to join this coalition. On August 6, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced that his state was participating in a coalition created by the United States to ensure the safety of shipping in the Persian Gulf. Naturally, the Iranian Foreign Ministry immediately responded that Tehran sees the possible presence of the US-created coalition in the Persian Gulf as an open threat to Iran’s national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is clear that only countries hostile to Iran can enter the American coalition. Russia has suggested cooperation with such countries as China, the United States, and India, as well as the EU. This may create a more favourable environment in terms of the impartiality of the actions of international observers.

Among the measures that Russia proposes, efforts to ease tensions may include, first of all, a refusal to use force to settle disputes, the creation of demilitarised zones, a reduction of the foreign presence in the region and confidence-building measures between countries within the region and other states. All these are consecutive steps that will consistently lead to a significant improvement of the situation in the region. Russia proceeds from the premise that the main task for today remains the prevention of war. In addition to tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, the main threat comes from sanctions that affect Iran.

How America’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ Policy Makes Iran More Adaptive
Hamidreza Azizi
Although the current pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic can be named as the toughest and most comprehensive one ever, and it has already shown its negative impacts on the Iranian economy, it would rather fall short of sparking a regime change in Iran.
Expert Opinions

Europe is inclined to pursue moderate politics. In Europe, there were no cardinal changes akin to those that occurred in the United States. The EU is already suffering from the flow of refugees and is interested in stability; it wants to conduct a different foreign policy towards the Middle East from that of the United States. However, so far it lacks the strength – both moral and economic, to oppose the USA and enter into a contentious confrontation with Washington. The EU and Russia have advised Iran not to respond to provocations and not to allow itself to take provocative steps, but the Iranian people are suffering under these sanctions. Moreover, experience shows that weaker countries fail to command respect. For example, Saddam Hussein agreed to let inspectors in and Muammar Gaddafi abandoned his nuclear programme, but North Korea has done the opposite. Everyone knows how the balance of power and attitude toward these countries has changed.

Of course, keeping Iran from making drastic moves in order to avoid war is the right thing to do, but we must not forget that the economic war against Iran was launched a very long time ago. These measures are becoming increasingly stringent and provocative. They destroy the country’s economy, and we are not able to stop it, and therefore it would be even more advisable to counterbalance America. I would also like to point out the obvious double standards exhibited by the media in the United States: While they exhibit political correctness towards various minorities and are always quick to champion their rights, they flatly ignore the plight of millions of Iranians, who are forced to live below the poverty line and starve because of US sanctions against Iran.

Iran, unlike other countries such as Iraq, Libya, etc., due to many factors, has always been persistent in upholding its independent political course, despite all the measures aimed to weaken the country's position in confrontations with the United States and its closest allies.

Donald Trump, suggesting why Tehran was not the first to initiate negotiations on the Grace 1 tanker detained in Gibraltar, argues that the reason for this is that the Iranians are “proud people”. In other words, this means that American and British politicians cannot but suggest Iran’s possible tit for tat approach and have to take into account possible risks, substituting an aggressive potential course of action, such as those they’ve already pursued in other countries of the Middle East, with a more restrained and cautious one.

Security in the Strait of Hormuz
Russia calls on the Gulf countries to gradually abandon the military presence of external forces. Considering the economic and energy security, Moscow, on the contrary, insists on joint actions. China and Iran were the first to support the Russian idea
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.