Oman sees biggest Gulf clash risk in Strait of Hormuz

Iran cannot legally close the Strait of Hormuz unilaterally because part of it is in Omani territorial waters. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 February 2020

Oman sees biggest Gulf clash risk in Strait of Hormuz

  • The waterway between Iran and Oman is the conduit for some 30 percent of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea
  • Friction between Iran and the West had led several nations to send task forces to guard shipping there

MUNICH: The risk of a military confrontation is higher in the Strait of Hormuz than anywhere else in the Gulf region, Oman’s foreign minister said, due in part to the growing number of military vessels from different countries that are guarding it.
The waterway between Iran and Oman — 33 kilometers wide at its narrowest point — is the conduit for some 30 percent of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea.
Friction between Iran and the West had led several nations to send task forces to guard shipping there, and Washington has blamed Tehran for attacks on international merchant vessels in or near the area, something Tehran denies.
“There are a lot of military ships in the Hormuz (area) and our concern is there could be a mistake,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said late on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference.
That would make that area the riskiest flashpoint in the Gulf over the coming months, he added.
Iran cannot legally close the Strait of Hormuz unilaterally because part of it is in Omani territorial waters. However, ships that sail it pass through Iranian waters, which are under the responsibility of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy.
Tehran has also threatened reprisals for the Jan. 3 killing of its top military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a US drone strike, though regional analysts have said that is unlikely to involve an intervention in the Strait.
Washington, which in 2018 decided to pull out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and re-impose sanctions on it, is leading a naval mission to protect oil tankers and cargo ships that includes Britain.
France leads a separate European mission, and Japan, Russia, South Korea and China have also sent naval assets to the region.
There have been periodic confrontations between the Iranian Guards and the US military in the Gulf in recent years. US officials have said closing the Strait would be crossing a “red line” and America would take action to reopen it.
“The only thing for Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar is the Strait of Hormuz and if it is blocked, we will all be in trouble so that’s why it is important to maintain the safeguard of maritime navigation,” Kuwait’s foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah told the same conference.


Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 53 min 19 sec ago

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

  • Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV, yjc.ir, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.