Strait of Hormuz - clogged oil artery of the world

19.07.2019

The US is provoking Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz, over which the Iranian drone was shot down yesterday. The overlapping of the main oil artery of the world can cause a global economic crisis and a global war in the Middle East. And Tehran will not go for it

There are several water spaces in the world, without which the normal functioning of the world economy is impossible. Most of them are in Eurasia. This pirate-infested Malacca Strait is the window of China and Japan to Africa and Europe. In the Middle East, such strategic points are the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, on the bank of which there is a war (in Yemen), and the Egyptian Suez Canal. These water arteries allow ships to get from Asia to Europe and vice versa, without skirting the African continent stretched from north to south. It is because of their importance that China, following the United States, built a military base in African Djibouti.

In Europe, the key role is played by Gibraltar and the Bosphorus with the Dardanelles. Although the colonial wars became a rudiment of history, the heirs of the British and Spanish empires are still arguing about the ownership of a piece of land of 6.5 thousand square meters. km The dispute has escalated due to the decision of Britain to leave the EU. A couple of weeks ago, the British arrested the Iranian tanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar. If British Gibraltar is the gateway to the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus is to the Black Sea. The importance of the Turkish-controlled channel increased after the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict and the frequent entry of NATO ships into the Black Sea.

As can be seen, the lion's share of strategic nodes falls on Asia.

In the Western Hemisphere, such is the Panama Canal, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The canal was built when Panama was a protectorate of the United States. In 1999, the Americans handed over this channel to the Panamanian government, but de facto retain control. In order not to depend on Washington, the Chinese decided to build an alternative channel in neighboring Nicaragua.

The economic importance of the Strait of Hormuz

The Strait of Hormuz occupies a special place in this list of the main waterways of the global economy. Sandwiched between Iran and Oman and having a width of 33 km at its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is the main oil corridor of the world. 30% of oil transported by water and the same amount of liquefied natural gas (LNG) passes through the Strait of Hormuz. In barrels - it is 22.5 million per day, which is a quarter of world production, or the sum of oil production in the United States and Russia.

For six OPEC countries - Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - the Strait of Hormuz is the only way to supply oil abroad. Through it, Qatar also exports most of the LNG. Approximately 80 percent of exported oil is destined for Asian markets.

The most dependent importer is Japan (80%), then the countries of Western Europe (23%) and the USA (13%) are located.

Geopolitical problems

The Strait of Hormuz is not only the most important economic corridor, but also one of the most intense regions in the world. Here are the conflicting Shiite Iran and the Sunni countries, primarily Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates still can not share with the Iranians the three islands - Big Tanb, Small Tanb and Abu Musa. Off the coast of the last this month, Iranian boats almost sank the British tanker British Heritage, but the frigate of the Royal Navy of Great Britain HMS Montrose stood up for him.

During the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq war, the Strait of Hormuz became a scourge for foreign ships. After the American frigate Samuel B. Roberts exploded in Iranian mines, the USA launched Operation Mantis and sank the Iranian frigate Sakhand and several smaller ships. In the same 1988, the American cruiser Vincennes destroyed the Iranian passenger liner Airbus A300.

After a decade of silence, the Strait of Hormuz recalled itself in 2010, when Al-Qaida attacked a Japanese tanker. At this time, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) regularly threatened to close the strait in retaliation for EU and US sanctions.

In 2016, the six international mediators, including the EU countries, Russia, China and the United States, signed a “nuclear deal” with Iran. Tension subsided. But after the US withdrew from the agreement last year and imposed anti-Iranian oil sanctions, incidents resumed.

Threats to close the Strait of Hormuz

In mid-May this year, four vessels were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, including two Saudi tankers. A month later, on June 13, two tankers were attacked - the Norwegian Front Altair and the Japanese Kokuka Courageous. The US accused the Iranians of it. A week later, the Islamic Republic of Iran destroyed the American drone over its airspace. The last incident happened last night. Donald Trump reported that an American ship in the Strait of Hormuz was hit by an Iranian drone that was 900 meters away.

Clashes in the region are accompanied by Iranian threats to close the gates of the Persian Gulf.

In response, the Pentagon collects a coalition from the Middle East and makes it clear that it is ready to defend oil tankers and freedom of navigation. To this end, in the Persian Gulf since last month plying the American aircraft carrier group.

Why does Iran close Ormuz?

Tehran’s motives have not changed. They are economic. Just as before the signing of the “nuclear deal”, the IRI is under sanctions pressure. Although now the EU, following the US, has not imposed sanctions and even protects the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (DFID), the fear of being punished by Washington has forced European companies (Total, Eni, Siemens) to wind up assets in Iran.

Under the terms of the UFID, Iran should not develop nuclear weapons in exchange for the abolition of international sanctions. Iran has fulfilled its part of the agreement, but did not receive the promised economic dividends. Given that Tehran has no other tools to influence violators of the FISP, it moves to a violent influence, threatening to close the gates of the Persian Gulf.

What happens if Iran closes the strait?

Some experts believe that the United States deliberately provoke Iran to close the strait. Tanker incidents are aimed at exactly that. The states benefit from Iran’s harsh steps to persuade their European partners to join the sanctions.

If Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, then its actions, under international law, will be interpreted as a violation of freedom of navigation. Protecting their Sunni allies, the United States is more likely to attack Iranian ships, blocking the way for tankers. Not far from here in Bahrain based Fifth Fleet of the US Navy. From the air they will be supported by American fighters stationed at the El-Udeid airbase in Qatar.

Iran cannot compete with the United States, either at sea or in the air, but it can spoil the blood of their allies. Hussites in Yemen can renew the shelling of Saudi cities, while Saudi Shiites can revolt in the eastern and western provinces of the kingdom. Hezbollah could be more active against Israel from the territory of Syria and Lebanon. The American military in Iraq is also in trouble, because Iran has influence on the local militant Shiite forces.

If the Americans start attacking Iranian territory directly, Iran can hit its ballistic missiles at US military bases in the region (Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain) and the capitals of their Sunni allies.

Iran will not "shoot itself in the foot"

The closure of the Strait of Hormuz will cause a major regional war that will cause economic damage not only to Iran, the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates and the rest of the OPEC countries, but to the whole world. In one day, the world could lose a quarter of its oil supply. Such a fuel shortage, coupled with soaring prices, will hit the world's largest energy-dependent economies — China and the European Union — and could lead to a global financial crisis.

Despite all the resentment of the West, Iran will not block the Strait of Hormuz. Like the Emirates, Kuwait and the rest of the region’s countries, Iran exports most of its oil through this artery. Closing her is like “shooting yourself in the foot.” Yes, even in such a difficult economic period, when under US sanctions inflation and unemployment are rising in Iran.

Alternative routes

All regional players understand the catastrophe to which the restriction of freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf will lead. However, just in case, they are developing alternative routes for the delivery of oil and gas. In 2012, the UAE opened an oil pipeline from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah, and Saudi Arabia modernized a gas pipeline connecting the Yanbu terminal in the Red Sea with fields in the eastern provinces. The Iranians themselves are also involved in the diversification of the oil routes. In 2017, they opened the Hindu port of Chebahar on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Here it is necessary to mention that the current war in Syria is a direct consequence of the desire of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to bypass the Strait of Hormuz. When Damascus refused to Saudis and Qatari in the construction of a gas pipeline that goes directly to the shores of the Mediterranean, and chose the project Iran-Iraq-Syria, Sunni countries began to support the Islamists who were trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

The closure of the Strait of Hormuz carries with it the threat of a global economic crisis and a major regional war. Understanding that this crisis will ruin and its economy, Iran is unlikely to take such a step, which, however, does not prevent it and other OPEC countries from searching for an alternative to the main oil artery of the world.