The strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz has been long established, with one third of the world’s petrochemical supplies passing through its waters.
It’s a chokepoint, a narrow neck of water that is an internationally recognised vital maritime route that must remain open. That vital principle, however, is being undermined by the deliberate and mischievous actions of the regime in Tehran.
Over the past two months, six tankers have been targeted by explosive devices on or near their waterlines. Thankfully, the explosions failed to breach their hulls and potentially very serious environmental and maritime incidents, which the saboteurs would have wished, failed to materialise.
Iranian forces, however, have also tried to seize several tankers and have succeeded in two recent incidents.
Added to this, Iran’s proxy forces in Yemen have previously laid technologically sophisticated sea mines in international sea lanes in the waters of the Bab Al Mandab.
Clearly, all of this suggests that the regime in Tehran is intent on disrupting maritime traffic, impeding the flow of tankers, undermining global commerce and trade, and determined to disrupt peace and stability in the region.
Clearly, this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. Were it not for the timely intervention of a British Royal Navy warship that trained its guns on Iranian patrol boats caught in the act, the regime in Tehran would be gloating of yet another tanker seized for spurious reasons. This episode shows that the only way to prevent these acts of state-sponsored piracy and sabotage by Iran is to adopt prudent methods of transiting the waters in and around the Strait of Hormuz.
A multinational protection force, either to accompany convoys of tankers through the bottleneck, or providing an effective protective picket through the area, is the only effective way of countering the malicious intentions and actions from Iranian naval vessels. Such a plan has been formulated recently in Bahrain, calling for the international community to provide naval ships to create and mobilise an international protection force in the Arabian Gulf.
The only way to deal with a bully is to stand up and say you’re not prepared to take it anymore.
That’s precisely what Iran is — a bully — and it’s time now for the international community to commit manpower and ships to this cause.
It matters not whether those ships are from the US, the UK or the EU. What matters is that Iran’s intimidation is met with a show of strength.