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Flashpoint: Strait of Hormuz

In addition to controlling huge reserves of the world's oil resources, Iran also controls the critical Strait of Hormuz chokepoint. How critical is it? The Energy Information Administration (a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy) informs us in its Persian Gulf Oil and Gas Exports Fact Sheet:

In 2003, the vast majority (about 90%) of oil exported from the Persian Gulf transited by tanker through the Strait of Hormuz , located between Oman and Iran. The Strait consists of 2-mile wide channels for inbound and outbound tanker traffic, as well as a 2-mile wide buffer zone. Oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz account for roughly two-fifths of all world traded oil, and closure of the Strait of Hormuz would require use of longer alternate routes (if available) at increased transportation costs. Such routes include the approximately 5-million-bbl/d-capacity East-West Pipeline across Saudi Arabia to the port of Yanbu, and the Abqaiq-Yanbu natural gas liquids line across Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea. The 15.0-15.5 million bbl/d or so of oil which transit the Strait of Hormuz goes both eastwards to Asia (especially Japan, China, and India) and westwards (via the Suez Canal, the Sumed pipeline, and around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa) to Western Europe and the United States. [emphasis added.]

Iran is serious about using its strategic leverage here, in addition to its burgeoning nuclear program:

Tehran, Iran, Apr. 05 [2006] – The Supreme Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, described on Wednesday the Strait of Hormuz on Iran’s southern shores as “the economic lifeline” of the West and said it could be used to put pressure on Iran’s enemies, state television reported.

. . . The general said that the area was of “immense military and geo-strategic importance” and that it linked the seaways of three continents – Africa, Asia, and Europe.

“Many industrial countries are dependent on the energy from this region. Japan gets 70 percent of its oil from this region, likewise 70 percent of certain European countries’ energy comes from this region”, he said, adding that every day the equivalent of 20 million barrels of oil travelled through the Strait of Hormuz.

“The Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf are … the corner stone of [Iran’s] defence. The Strait of Hormuz counts as a point of economic control and pressure in the transfer of energy for aggressive powers from beyond the continent that want to endanger the security of the region”, General Safavi said.

Iran blockaded the Strait during the Tanker War of 1984-87, which drew in U.S. involvement when the U.S.S. Stark was hit by an Iraqi missile.

Take a look at the chokepoint:

Strait of Hormuz

Iran has placed Silkworm missiles on Abu Musa island, which it has militarily occupied since 1971 and is disputed territory with Oman, in addition to placing missiles on Qeshim island. A variation of the Soviet SS-N-2 Styx missile, the Iranian Navy used Silkworms during the Tanker War.

Silkworm Missile

Have a nice day!

See also Flashpoint: Iran

Posted by Ken McCracken · 20 April 2006 11:59 AM


Ken, great post. First, I pray that leaders with true strength and character guide us through our future years of troubles with the Imams of Iran and their mad, hostage-abusing front man, ahmadinajad (spelling?). Second, can any America hater deny what is becoming undeniable, that the US eventually, with little support from the rest of the world, will have to choose between bad and worse options to keep Iran from igniting a horrible conflagration?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at April 20, 2006 12:55 PM

This is scary. If you use just a bit of foresight, it is becoming clear that Iran sees itself as the center of the muslim world (are all Islamofascists meglomaniacs?), that it intends to use ever-increasing military and economic pressure to build and grow a new caliphate, that the ultimate intent is for the entire world to be controlled by Sharia law and be obedient to Allah, that their desired future does not include Israel or a free United States. I wish we had leaders upto this challenge.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at April 20, 2006 01:25 PM

In 1987 when I was part of the Hormuz Highway Patrol, the straits was a pretty unsafe place for anyone. Iran was as nuts back then as they are now. We transited nightly escorting ships to and from to the handoff at the entrance of the Gulf. Everynight was a GQ night with darkened ship. We did this for about 3 months are so. Even when I transited the straights in 1990 before Gulf War 1 it was a big deal. But since that time, the Navy has been developing anti missile defenses to thwart such attacks, but the merchant ships are still vulnerable.

Posted by: SgtFluffy at April 21, 2006 03:37 PM