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01/25/12

Don't Turn the Strait of Hormuz into a Turkmanchai-Type Disaster

Opinion article by Farzaneh Roostaee, Rooz Online

Those in Iran who are turning the Strait of Hormuz into an issue are perhaps not aware that if the waterway turns into a conflict, its final chapter will be very different from the way the eight year Iran-Iraq war ended by drinking a chalice of poison.

Iranian right-wingers who dream of supremacy and grab any megaphone to scream about the Strait are probably doing it because the waterway has most likely become an election issue. They may be trying to send this message to the world: “We control this country, and not our domestic rivals,” and, “If a deal needs to be made, you need to make it with us.”

Recent Battles at the Strait

According to statistics from Lloyds of London, during the tanker war in the Persian Gulf between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s, some 546 commercial ships were attacked at the Strait which resulted in the death of 430 sailors.

In the May of 1987 US guided-missile frigate USS Stark was hit with two Iraqi anti-ship Exocet missiles near the Strait of Hormuz which turned into one of the mysteries of the war in the Persian Gulf. Four months earlier, Lebanese daily Alsharq had revealed that the US and Israel had sold anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Iran in return of its assistance in freeing the American hostages in Lebanon. The Stark was hit to give the US a warning and drag it into the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf.

On April 1988, US guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine as it entered the Strait of Hormuz but did not sink. US frogmen found new mines bearing the inscription of “Iran Ajr” on them. In response to this, the US Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis. Through its execution, first the Sassan oil platform and the oil facilities at Siri island, both belonging to Iran, were destroyed. Then Iranian missile boats Sahand and Joshan were hit and sunk, killing 56 sailors. The Iranian frigate Sabalan too was hit with missiles and disabled. Two months later, US guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger plane killing all 290 on board.


Photos: Iranian Navy's parade in the Strait of Hormuz

Examining the Threats to Shut the Strait of Hormuz

In reality, the provocation to close the strait and pitting the international community against Iran was a military trap designed by Iraq against Iran. This is why even though Iraq attacked ships destined for Iran in the Persian Gulf, Iran did not respond for the first four years.

Even during the height of the tanker war, traffic through the Strait of Hormuz declined only by 25 percent, but was never completely halted.

The main part of the two shipping channels of the Strait of Hormuz, in and out of the Persian Gulf passes through Iranian waters. A look at international maps of the Strait makes it clear that even though the boundaries between Oman and Iran have been delineated, the Strait of Hormuz belongs to Oman.

By disrupting the traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, one should expect a response from the international community. One should note that by challenging the Strait, the administration of Iranian Greater and Lesser Tomb islands, which are claimed by the UAE, may also be lost from Iran. It is also possible that the administration of the Strait may be handed over to an international committee in which Iran will have no role to play.

Just two hundred years ago, the Iranian kings of the Qajar dynasty, lost significant parts of Iran’s northern territory to Tsarist Russia through the Golestan and Turkmanchai treaties. Iranians continue to be vengeful of the incompetence of Iranian kings. Similarly, future Iranian generations will not forgive those who through ignorance use security issues and the waterways of the country to battle their domestic opponents or who try to oppress the Iranian nation through fake justifications of crises at the Strait of Hormuz.

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