- Jervin Naidoo
In Dire Straits - Iran's Aggression Rises
A war is brewing in straits of Hormuz which could have major global implications on peace in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and the world at large.
The root cause of this possible conflict is the ever weakening Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA). More commonly known as the Iranian Nuclear Deal, the signatories include Iran and the negotiating members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of China, France, Great Britain, Russia, the United States of America and the European Union. The landmark JCPOA was agreed upon in July 2015 after years and years of dialogue between Iran and members of the JCPOA. It set the terms and conditions of curbing and reducing Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the withdrawal of various economic and political sanctions. Such sanctions have hindered Iran’s progress since the 1980s.
However, the withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA under President Trump, failing diplomacy and Iranian backtracking on the terms of agreement has resulted in the possibility of a costly and violent war in the region. On the 12th of May 2019, four commercial oil tankers were sabotaged in the Arabian sea just off the straits of Hormuz. The US and her allies in the region such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates lay blame firmly at the door of Iran. Iran claims to have acted in retaliation to the US and her allies dramatically increased economic sanctions in light of further non-compliance of the JCPOA. The straits of Hormuz represent an important strategic geopolitical space. Indeed, it is the busiest oil transit checkpoint in the world, accounting for around 30% of global crude oil production, as well as being a major shippi
ng lane in the Middle East for other commodities. Thus, the controlling and management of the straits has a significant economic value to any state. The targeting of Western and US allied oil tankers by Iran is seen as a tool to hurt these countries economically, for oil plays a major role in the global economy. Since the 12th of May, there has been numerous incidents involving oil tankers, with the seizure of some ships, sabotage and attacks on others. There is no clear indication who is at fault, but it seems that Iran and the US have both been responsible for this maritime insecurity of the straits of Hormuz.
This insecurity in the straits has led to a securitization of the straits. The US and her allies have increased their naval and aircraft presence in the area, with Great Britain providing naval escorts for any of its vessels passing through the strait. Furthermore, the shooting down of a US surveillance drone which Iran has taken responsibility for has further increased tensions between the two states, and their allies. Additionally, one could even argue that the rising tensions in the straits of Hormuz, is but a result or an overspill of conflicts within the region. As the war in Syria and Yemen rages on, both the US, Iran and their allies, all have “a dog in those fights” with each looking to secure influence, impact and utility in the region. It seems that diplomatic relations between the US and Iran have become the worst since the 1979 revolution. With both the UNSC and EU failing to facilitate talks as their own members are hamstrung by their own internal politics and interests it seems but a matter of time before a war kicks off. However, I am hopeful that this diplomatic “vacuum” can been seen as an opportunity by some other states to help promote peace.
So far, Japanese and Pakistani involvement has restored my faith, as they both have been acting as facilitators and mediators in this conflict. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has relied on its strong relationship with US to defuse tensions and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has done the same between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It seems that a peaceful solution to conflict will come as a result of another state taking the initiative to bring peace talks to the table rather than the UNSC or the EU. A war in the straits of Hormuz would be costly and a failure to allow the safe passage of oil would wreak havoc on the global economy. Thus, even if a war does ignite between the US and Iran, it will be short-lived as the economic loss will be too high for either to bear resulting in the forced resumption of meaningful peace talks. The situation in the straits of Hormuz remains volatile and mercurial, and it will take a great act of diplomacy, understanding and compromise between Iran, the US and her allies. The world does not need another war, it needs peace, reconciliation and the fostering of unity.