The “sabotage” of oil tankers and threats to close Hormuz, new tensions for the region

The “sabotage” of oil tankers and threats to close Hormuz, new tensions for the region

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Researcher Shatha Khalil
The crisis between Tehran and Washington in the Arabian Gulf region has escalated militarily for the diplomatic tensions, coinciding with the US decision to send an amphibious attack ship and Patriot batteries to the Gulf, where B52 bombers were deployed, and the Pentagon announced on Friday,” it is in response to alleged threats from Iran.”
The warship USS Arlington, which includes marines, amphibious vehicles, equipment and helicopters, is still on its way to the Middle East, US officials said , a move was aimed at countering “clear signs” of Iran’s threats to US forces in the region.
In a rare incident in the United Arab Emirates, a Gulf Arab country with significant security stability, four merchant ships were exposed to the sabotage in the UAE waters off Iran, which the Iranian group of Hawqis claimed its responsibility under Iranian orders.
The UAE National newspaper said that two Saudi ships, according to the authorities of Riyadh were among the four commercial vessels that were subjected to acts of sabotage, while the other two vessels of the UAE and Norway, and this threat increases the conflict in the region and threatens the vital way through which merchant ships are passing .
The official SPA news agency said that “one of the two carriers was on its way to load the Saudi oil from the port of Ras Tanura, and then go to the United States to supply Saudi Aramco customers there, and Saudi Arabia considered this action a criminal and poses a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime traffic, reflected negatively on regional and international peace and security.
The stability of the Arab oil states overlooking the Gulf is part of the stability of the world, east and west, and targeting four oil tankers in the waters of the Gulf represents a moment of recklessness which is the ideal embodiment of the stupidity of those who did so reckless act.
And if Iran – the party to which the finger of accusation was pointing to – has expressed surprise at what happened, it did not deny its responsibility categorically, and here we must stand and ask… Iran planned, supporting and Houthi executors, although preparing for the big match, it still looks at It as a fantasy event that can not happen, and it considers all American military preparations in the region a kind of psychological war, in which the Iranian people are to be stricken, according to the official Iranian expression.
If Iran is the actor, this is evidence of its weakness and inability to implement its threats, which come only as shy signals accompanied by tough statements to intimidation , or is it a scenario to revive oil prices by triggering crises as before.

In contrast to the insistence of the Iranian regime to continue its policies, using the arms of the “Huthis” and others … All the existing equations are subject to change, as confirmed by the American preparations and these preparations are sufficient to launch a war that will certainly be devastating to Iran, and will face an open confrontation with the world and not with the United States itself, and it will be the loser from that confrontation.
We must not forget that system has supporters in Washington and has political forums supporting it there. This was evident in the era of Barack Obama’s rule, so it is certain that the regime recognizes that there is a distance between the United States is keen to control its nerves in the case that the situation in the Gulf region is controlled, and if Washington sees that its interests and the interests of the world are under threat.

The Iranians know that the security of the Gulf is a global red line, which often prompts them to back down from their threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, and because it is not really serious, but it is forced to say that as a pressure card to be used on the Gulf and America. .as the closure strangles it before it stifles world oil trade
The United States is not expected to launch a full-scale war on Iran unless the latter makes major mistakes, but it is certain that a blow Iran might receive from within.

The United States is wary of engaging in a new war in the region for many reasons, foremost of which is the concern for the security and stability of the Gulf region, as one of the most important strategic areas in the world, but that position is what Iran should not bet on it where it pursues a policy of expansion at the expense of other countries and the deployment and financing of terrorist militias.

For its part, Europe believes that this agreement is necessary for its security. No one wants Iran to be able to acquire a nuclear weapon. ” “We will continue to support the implementation of this agreement,” said German Foreign Minister Haikou Mas. And he added “Europe is making efforts to maintain legitimate trade with Iran, especially by providing a payment channel , especially with the three partners – Germany, France and Britain – taking part in global agreement , aims to remove the trade barriers with Iran while preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz:
The Strait of Hormuz is a waterway separating between Iran and Oman, linking the Arabian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, with a width of 21 miles at its narrowest point.
The US Energy Information Administration estimates that 18.5 million barrels per day of oil is transported through Hormuz, accounting for 30 percent of all crude oil traded by sea each year.
Most of the exported crude of Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq is passed across the strait. Hormuz is also considered the main passage for almost all LNG shipments from Qatar.
On July 8, 2018, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said: “Either everyone will use the Strait of Hormuz or no one will use it,” in support of the position of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, who threatened to close the strait.

Their oil for each of them is in what was known as the tanker war, while the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is charged with protecting commercial vessels across the straits.

The immediate threat came from the commander of the Navy that it belongs to the Revolutionary Guards Ali Taksiri : “According to international law, the Strait of Hormuz is a sea pass, and if we are prevented from using it, we will close it,” he added. “In case of any threat, there will be no doubt that we will protect Iranian waters and we will defend it.”
After the White House announced the non-renewal of exemptions in May, which was granted to eight countries that import Iranian oil without being subjected to US sanctions,
and with one-third of the world’s sea-transported oil per day, the Strait of Hormuz is a strategic link between Middle East crude producers and major markets in Asia, the Pacific, Europe and North America. This strait has been located at the heart of regional tensions for decades .This is not the first time Tehran has made such threats.
Earlier , previous Iranian threats , in July 2010, a Japanese oil tanker called ( M Star ) was attacked in the strait , an armed group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack , and in January 2012 Iran threatened to close the strait in response to US and European sanctions targeting oil revenues in an attempt to stop the nuclear program.
In May 2015, Iranian ships fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker that said it had destroyed an Iranian oil platform, causing the vessel to flee.

On July 3, 2018, President Hassan Rowhani hinted that Iran could disrupt the flow of oil across the strait in response to US calls to cut Iranian oil exports to zero.
This came in response to pressure from US President Donald Trump to halt Iranian oil exports and punish countries that deal with Tehran.
Iran is not serious about closure. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed in December 1982, defines “territorial waters” as a maximum of 12 nautical miles off the coast of each country.
“By forcing ships to use the north and east routes to reach the Arabian Gulf, they will pass through Iranian waters, which means that the state can theoretically impose restrictions on traffic entering its waters,” Deutsche Fillet said on its website.

Iran and the United States interpret the UN convention differently. While the Iranian government signed the 1982 agreement, it has not yet been passed by parliament.

“As long as the world economy depends heavily on the supply of oil, it is likely that the partial or short-term closure of the Strait of Hormuz will see a huge increase in oil prices, but Iran will not only harm its neighbors exporters and countries that import oil from the Gulf region, it will cause a huge damage to itself which is also heavily dependent on free cross-strait traffic.

“The United States is committed to” not allowing the closure of Hormuz, therefore the closure is not possible “said Edward Moya, chief market analyst at Oanda Financial company, for US Market Watch, watchdog of global markets.

And while the United States wants to see Iran’s exports fall to zero, this will not happen, if this happens, in reference to the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.

James Williams, an energy expert at the international energy company WTRG Economics, expressed his doubts about the decline in Iranian oil imports to zero. And he added: “The threat of closing the Strait of Hormuz is clear, but I expect to conduct naval maneuvers near the strait as it was happened in the past, supporting oil prices and getting more revenue for any amount of oil they export.”
One of the consequences of the closure, the German Deutsche Fillet says: As long as the world economy depends heavily on oil supply, the partial or short-term closure of the Strait of Hormuz is likely to increase oil prices and spread fear in all global financial markets.
Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates will stop their oil shipments, while Saudi Arabia will have to export through its ports on the Red Sea, and of course with a major conflict in the region, this could turn into a military conflict.

Economic Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies