Iran’s tanker attacks a threat to the world, not just the US
Some government officials around the world may believe that Iran’s recent threats are solely directed toward the US and that the Iranian regime does not pose a national security risk to their countries. As a result, the argument goes that the most efficient policy is to leave the US alone to deal with or counter the Islamic Republic.
That could be partially why the EU and some Asian countries have declined to join the US in imposing pressure on Tehran.
However, it is important to point out that Iran’s actions can have negative repercussions and inflict significant damage not only on the US, but also on the rest of the world. Let us take Iran’s actions and policies on the Strait of Hormuz as an example.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the ruling clerics have always boasted about Iran’s strategic advantage and superiority over this Gulf passageway, through which roughly a third of global oil exports pass.
A study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasted that, by 2030, nearly two-thirds of the world’s oil supply would pass through the Strait of Hormuz. A significant amount of natural gas is also transported through it.
Iranian leaders have repeatedly exploited their strategic advantage by issuing threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, which is another tactic in the asymmetric war strategy employed by Tehran. Mohammed Ali Jafari, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, has been quoted by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency as saying: “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.” More recently, the armed forces chief of staff Mohammed Bagheri said: “If our oil does not go through the strait, other countries’ oil will certainly not cross the strait either.”
Although some policymakers and politicians argue that these statements are simply rhetoric, many incidents, both recent and in the past, have revealed that Tehran is willing to deliver on its threats. In 1988, Iran laid mines in the Arabian Gulf, one of which was hit by an American missile frigate. In response, the US carried out Operation Praying Mantis, which wiped out half of Iran’s operational fleet. In May 2015, the Islamic Republic also fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker.
European and Asian governments must halt Iran’s disruption of this key waterway.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
And, in the last two months, several oil tankers have been attacked in the Gulf. The targeting of oil tankers poses more significant threats to the national security of European and Asian countries than the US. Two ships that were sabotaged on June 13 were Japanese and Norwegian — the Japanese Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian Front Altair. Their crews had to abandon the ships.
When it comes to the volume of crude oil and condensate transported through the Strait of Hormuz, Asian and EU imports exceed that of the US. China is ranked the top importer. Other big Asian importers of crude oil and condensate include Japan and South Korea. The top six in the EU are Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Netherlands, and France.
Now imagine if the theocratic establishment of Iran ratchets up its disruption or totally blocks the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Oil and gas prices would most likely skyrocket to unprecedented levels in European and Asian countries.
This would impact the costs of other commodities and subsequently create a substantial economic crisis throughout the global financial system.
European and Asian officials must be aware that there exists no difference between Iran’s moderates and hard-liners on this issue, as politicians across the Iranian political spectrum have come to the agreement that the world’s economy can be held to ransom to advance the ruling clerics’ interests.
In an interview with Iranian state TV last December, the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying: “If, one day, they want to prevent the export of Iran’s oil, then no oil will be exported from the Gulf.” Meanwhile, Rouhani’s official website also quotes him as stating: “The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported.”
As a result, it is in the national security interests of European and Asian nations to stop the Iranian leaders from carrying out attacks or shutting the world’s busiest transit lane for seaborne oil shipments.
In summary, Iran’s actions in the Strait of Hormuz pose a graver threat to European and Asian countries than to the US. This is due to their dependence on oil imports from the region. European and Asian governments must halt Iran’s disruption of this key waterway.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh