By Dr. Elias Akleh
The Persian Gulf with its Strait of Hormuz is considered the vital area for the global economy because it is the main marine corridor for oil tankers. Free and safe navigation for oil tankers are of utmost importance and are guaranteed by international laws. Throughout history of the Gulf its navigation was threatened only twice; once during the late 1980s and again at present.
The two threat incidents were caused by American administration’s attempts to contain and to weaken Iran in the face of Iran’s perceived threats to Zionist Israel. Before the 1979 Iranian revolution the Shah of Iran; Mohammad Pahlavi, had a good relationship with Israel. He spent a lot of Iranian oil money buying Israeli weapons. The Iranian revolution kicked out the Israeli ambassador and gave the embassy building to PLO representatives. Iranians were then, and still are, pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionism.
In retaliation, the Iraqi president; then Saddam Hussein (once a CIA asset) was seduced by the American administration to invade Iran to take control of the nearby oil-rich Khuzestan Province. Iran defended itself fiercely. This was the beginning of the eight-year war of attrition.
Saddam’s failure on the ground battle field led him to start the so-called “Tanker War” in 1984 bombing Iranian oil terminal and oil tankers at Kharg Island. By doing so Saddam was hoping that Iran might respond by closing the Strait of Hormuz to all oil tankers traffic prompting the US to intervene. The US threatened several times to intervene if the Strait of Hormuz was closed. Iran responded by following the same tactic; attacking oil tankers, mostly Kuwaitis, shipping Iraqi oil.
This tanker war led the Reagan administration to launch Operations Earnest Will and Prime Chance in 1987 to protect tankers carrying Iraqi oil. Iraqi bombers on the other hand were free to attack Iranian oil tankers. American forces had occasionally attacked Iranian assets such as the bombing of Iranian frigate Sahand, oil platforms and destroyers in Operation Praying Mantis and Operation Nimble Archer.
Eager to hit Iranian targets the USS Vincennes, while in Iranian water, shot down Iran’s commercial Air Flight 655 killing all 290 passengers including 66 children. President Reagan described the attack as “a proper defensive action.”
Besides these naval operations, and in order to prolong the war of attrition between the two anti-Israel countries, the Reagan administration sold Iraq weapons and provided them with intelligence, and at the same time it allowed Israel to sell American made weapons to Iran and to provide Iranians with intelligence; goyim fighting goyim for the benefit of Talmudic Israel and American military complex.
To top it off, Reagan’s envoy to Iraq at the time; Donald Rumsfeld, sold president Saddam Hussein chemical weapons. Iraq used chemical weapons in its attacks against Iran. The media reported Iraq’s chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja killing at least 5000 civilians. Yet, there were very few reports about the other 350 large-scale chemical attacks – between 1980 and 1988- against Iranian cities such as Sardasht, Zardeh, Marivan, Sarpol-e, Zahab, Oshnavie, Gilan-e-gharb and many others, killing hundreds of thousands and leaving 45,000 other Iranian victims in permanent health problems.
After the war the maritime traffic in the Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz became safer. Iran learned that it has to develop its military defensive capabilities especially after the 1990/1991 Gulf War – Operation Desert Storm – and the 2003 Iraq War leading to the destruction of Iraq considered the strongest Arab country in the Middle East at the time. Iran, then, focused its attention onto nuclear technology.
Iranian development of nuclear technology started in the 1957 when the US, through “Atoms for Peace” program, supplied Iran with a 5 megawatt nuclear reactor with highly enriched uranium to fuel it. Iran signed the NPT in 1968 and ratified it in 1970. After the end of its war against Iraq, Iran pursued nuclear technology for peaceful purposes with help from Pakistan, China and Russia.
When suspected of undertaking nuclear enrichment operations in two undeclared nuclear facilities; Arak and Natanz, international sanctions and negotiations with Iran took place between 2002 and 2015 to prevent Iran from developing a technology that would allow it to build atomic bombs. The result was the 2003 EU-3 Agreement (France, Germany and UK) and the 2015 P+1 JCPOA (France, Germany, UK, China, Russia and US). Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to 3.67% sufficient for civilian use and research, to reduce the number of centrifuges, and to open its facilities to on-the-spot IAEA inspections. (Short history of Iranian nuclear program.
Despite the fact that Iran was complying with the JCPOA nuclear deal as confirmed by multiple IAEA reports, President Trump, in May 2018, announced America’s withdrawal from the deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran claiming that Iran was supporting terrorism and is pursuing nuclear head ballistic missiles. He invited Iran for re-negotiations. When all his invitations were rebuffed by Iran Trump imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil export. Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz against all oil tankers if its oil export was blocked.
To increase pressure on Iran Trump’s administration on April 8th labeled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization. On May (American?/Israeli?) false flag attacks against four commercial oil tankers from UAE and Saudi Arabia were perpetrated off the Emirati port of Fujairah in the Persian Gulf. A month later two other false flag attacks were also perpetrated against a Japanese and a Norwegian oil tankers in the Sea of Oman. Although Iranian boats were the first to get to the rescue the US hastened to accuse Iran of attacking the oil tankers without providing any proof and even before the start of any investigation. The Gulf of Oman is the most monitored area by America’s most sophisticated surveillance equipment and satellites. Yet the perpetrators were not detected.
Early July the US announced that two large oil tankers; the Algerian owned Mesdar and the Emirati owned Mt Riah (UAE later denied ownership of the vessel), had disappeared while crossing the Strait of Hormuz and could not be found by all American and British navy ships nor could be detected by any radars or satellites. Iran was accused of hijacking the two ships. Iran revealed that its navy had received emergency calls from these ships and had towed the ships to shore for repair.
The tension of this new tanker war was elevated when British Royal Navy, citing EU embargo against Syria, on July 4 captured the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 while in Spanish territorial waters crossing the Strait of Gibraltar ostensibly on its way to Syria. Iran called this an act of piracy since EU, unlike the US, does not have any embargo on Iranian oil.
Also on July 18 the Brazilian Petrobras oil firm, citing American sanctions on Iran, refused to sell fuel to two Iranian ships that got stranded at Paranagua Brazilian port for two weeks. The ships delivered urea; a petrochemical product used as fertilizer, and were supposed to transport 116 thousand tons of Brazilian corn back to Iran.
Iran, though, did not succumb to all these pressures, ignored all Trump’s invitation to sit at the negotiation table without any pre-conditions. Iran surprised the world with its response. Iran threatened to not abide by the nuclear deal if other parties did not abide by the agreement, had increased its uranium production to over 300 Kgs, and threatened to increase enrichment beyond the 3.67% limit.
On July 19 Iranian navy forces detained the British oil tanker “Stena Impero” at the request of the Organization of Ports and Maritime Shipping in Hormuzkan Province for its violations of maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. The British ship was entering the Persian Gulf through the exit lane of the Strait of Hormuz pausing the risk of colliding with other vessels, had collided with an Iranian fishing boat, turned off its GPS transponder and had ignored all the communication attempts by the Iranian navy. These were stark violations of the Iranian security protocol in the Gulf that require intervention. The tanker was accompanied by the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose for its protection, but was warned by Iranian navy boats not to interfere in the detention process. UK accused Iran’s detention of Stena Impero as a tit-for-tat situation after the detention of Iranian tanker Grace 1, and had prolonged its detention of the Iranian tanker for 30 more days.
As for its two stranded ships in Brazil, Iran warned the Brazilian president; Jair Bolsonaro, a Trump admirer, that Iran would stop importing Brazilian corn, soybean, and meat products, which would deal a great blow to Brazilian corn farmers. Iran is the biggest importer of Brazilian corn and fifth biggest importer of meat and soybean. Brazilian Supreme Court, then, ordered Petrobras to supply the stranded Iranian ships with fuel.
Iran sent a clear message that Iranian borders and airspace are red lines not to be violated when it shot down the $220 million American RQ- 4C Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance, near-real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district, but spared its accompanied manned P-8 Poseidon military aircraft. Since the drone was launched from the UAE’s territory Iran warned all Arab Gulf states that any American attack from Arab soil will be considered an act of war by that country.
Iran had proved its superior drone capability when it released a surveillance video of its drone flying over the USS-Boxer without being detected while disputing Trump’s claim that the US had shot down the drone. Iran has a clear view of every ship in the Gulf allowing its navy a prompt response to any incidence such as capturing, last Wednesday, the Iraqi oil tanker smuggling fuel.
Throughout the last 40 years, Iran had developed its defensive military power with local independent technologies.
According to globalfire.com Iran’s navy, with its 398 naval assets, 6 frigates, 3 corvettes, 34 submarines and 88 speed patrol boats, is ranked 14 globally. It also has many fighter planes, attack helicopters, short-range and ballistic missiles, tanks and armored fighting vehicles, and tremendous fighting manpower; more than one million reaching military age annually.
Iran is not Iraq nor Afghanistan, and war against this large country is not going to be a walk in the park. Such war would spread to the whole Middle East not just the Gulf region. The existence of many American military bases in the Gulf state, and the American and British naval ships in the Gulf create tension and risk of military conflict. All these military bases and vessels would be easy targets to Iranian missiles and rockets from the small maneuverable speed boats. The so-called Iranian threat does not come only from the Gulf, but also from missiles erected along the 615 miles long of the Iranian coast and deep inland.
The 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOC) had prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons. So, what prompted Trump administration to withdraw from such a deal and to impose sanctions? The elephant in the room, here, is Israel and its colonial expansionist ambitions in the Zionist Greater Israel project. Military strong Iran with ballistic missiles reaching Tel Aviv constitutes a huge obstacle to this Zionist project. Trump’s main objective of re-negotiating the nuclear deal is to eliminate Iranian ballistic missiles to guarantee Israel’s superiority in the region. Towards this goal Obama’s as well as Trump’s administrations have spent the last ten years and billions of American tax money working in a joint effort with Israel, at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in Kodiak, building the Israeli Arrow-3 missile system.
Besides the Iranian ballistic missiles threat, Iran played a major role in foiling the Israeli/American plan of creating and arming terrorist groups such ISIS to destroy and divide Syria. Iran is also supporting and arming Lebanese Hezbollah, who became a big thorn in Israel’s throat. Also, Iran’s support to Yemen is an obstacle to Israeli/American/Saudi ambitions in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. All of these Iranian support efforts come as parts and parcel of its unconditional support to the Palestinian cause.
The false flag attacks against oil tankers and the tankers war aim at demonizing Iran and portraying it as a threat to the maritime traffic as a justification to form a foreign naval coalition; mainly American and European, to snatch control of the Gulf from Iran. Yet, Iranian strength, open communication and unwavering resolve did not just persuade many European countries; such as France, Germany and Spain, not to join the proposed American naval alliance, but had also encouraged some Gulf Arab countries to join Iran in its proposed Gulf non-aggression pact with neighboring countries to safeguard the security of the Gulf.
Iran and Iraq buried the 8-years-war hatchet and became today close allies opening borders and signing trade and security agreements between the two countries. Oman’s foreign minister; Yusuf bin Alawi, visited Iran in June and again in July to discuss bilateral relations. Cooperation between the two countries were established including bilateral trade exchange, direct flights, and security in the Strait of Hormuz.
On August 3rd an Emirati delegation to Iran signed a memorandum of understanding in order to enhance maritime border cooperation between the two countries. This meeting has been the first between the two countries since 2013. Banking financial transactions have also been facilitated between the two countries.
Yesterday, August 5th. Qatar and Iran held their 15th joint coast guard meeting to improve cooperation and boost bilateral relations. Relationship between the two countries has improved after Qatar’s Arab neighbors boycotted the country accusing it of supporting terror groups.
Also on August 5th, Iran and Russia announced that the two countries will hold joint military drills in the Persian Gulf possibly in the Strait of Hormuz. The announcement came after three-day visit by Iranian Nave commander Hossein Khanzadi to Russia, where he signed a memorandum of understanding seeking to expand military cooperation between the two countries.
With Russian backing and with the cooperation of the neighboring Gulf States it seems that Iran is forming a local naval coalition to protect and safeguard the maritime traffic in the Gulf without any foreign interference. Who is better able to protect the Gulf other than its local owners?
Whose Gulf is it anyway?
Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab-American from Palestinian descent. His family was evicted from Haifa, Palestine after the 1948 Nakba when Zionists stole his family’s property. Then the family was evicted again from the West Bank during the 1967 Naksah, after Zionists again, occupied the rest of Palestine.