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)
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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.


Fire breaks out at petrochemical facility in southwest Iran

Updated 12 July 2020

Fire breaks out at petrochemical facility in southwest Iran

  • The fire was caused by an oil leak but did not lead to any casualties or financial damage

A fire broke out at a facility belonging to the Shahid Tondgooyan Petrochemical Company in southwest Iran but was quickly contained, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday, citing a local official.
The fire was caused by an oil leak but did not lead to any casualties or financial damage, Mohsen Beyranvand, the governor of Mahshahr county said, according to IRNA.
Beyranvand described the fire as minor and said it was put out in less than ten minutes.
There have been several explosions around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June.
A gas explosion shook a residential building in Iran’s capital Tehran on Saturday, injuring one person, the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted the city fire department as saying.
A chlorine gas leak occurred at a unit of the Karoon petrochemicals plant near the port of Bandar Imam Khomeini on the Gulf on July 4, injuring dozens, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported. (Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh, editing by Louise Heavens)