In the 1950s, Iran did not have the military might to retaliate against the oil embargo and the naval blockade aimed at crushing the economy in order to bring about the regime change. The subsequent events were described in a New York Times article as a "lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid" when an oil-rich Third World nation "goes berserk with fanatical nationalism". Iran learnt that sovereignty and nationalism necessitate tactical/military strength and determination.
Continues Soraya that not heeding the aftermath of the 1950s, the American-led Western allies have once again imposed an oil embargo on Iran. In retaliation, Iran has drafted a bill to stop the flow of oil through its territorial waters - the Strait of Hormuz, to countries that have imposed sanctions against it. This bill is not without merit and contrary to the previous oil embargo, it would appear that Tehran has the upper hand and the heavy cost associated with the embargo will not be borne by Iran alone.
Iran's legal standing
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that vessels can exercise the right of innocent passage and coastal states should not impede their passage. Although Iran has signed the Treaty, the Treaty was not ratified and as such it has no legal standing. However, even if one overlooks the non-binding signature, under the UNCLOS framework of international law, a coastal state can block ships from entering its territorial waters if the passage of the ships harm "peace, good order or security" of said state, as the passage of such ships would no longer be deemed "innocent" .
Even if Iran simply chooses to merely delay the passage of tankers by exercising its right to inspect every oil-tanker that passes through the Strait of Hormuz, these inspections and subsequent delays would maintain or contribute to higher oil prices. While higher oil prices would benefit Iran and other oil-producing countries, they would further destabilize the European economy, which is already in crisis.
The military option
Although US-led Western allies are flexing their muscles by sending battle ships to the Persian Gulf, Washington's own war game exercise, the Millennium Challenge 2002 (with a price tag of $250 million), underscored its inability to defeat Iran. Oblivious to the lesson of its own making, by sending more warships to the Persian Gulf the US is inching towards a full-scale conflict. The inherent danger from a naval buildup is that unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis, the forces in the Persian Gulf are not confined to two leaders who would be able to communicate to stop a run-away situation. Nor would the consequences of such a potential conflict be limited to the region.
Given that 17 million barrels of oil a day, or 35% of the world's seaborne oil exports go through the Strait of Hormuz, incidents in the Strait would be fatal for the world economy. While only 1.1 million barrels per day go to the US, a significant amount of this oil is destined for Europe. One must ask why the US demands that its "European allies" act contrary to their own national interest, pay a higher price for oil by boycotting Iran's exports and increase the risk of Iran blocking the passage of other oil-tankers destined for them.
It is possible that the leaders of Western European countries are beholden to special interest groups such as pro-Israel lobbies, as the US is. Or they may believe that Iran will not call their bluff by ratifying the bill passed by the Majlis and that oil will be delivered unhindered. Perhaps both instances hold. Either way, they are committing financial suicide and may well suffer serious consequences before Iran's resolve is shaken, concludes Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi Asia Times 6 July 2012
responding to the onset of the European Union's oil embargo with a defiant show of military strength and renewed threats to close the Strait of Hormuz; Iran has signaled to the West that it won't be a passive victim of economic warfare.
Iranian officials this week made defiant remarks over a United States build up of forces in the Persian Gulf after a three-day missile drill concluded on Wednesday. The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' aerospace division, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said that all US bases in the region are within the reach of Iran's missiles.
The Great Prophet 7 exercise concluded a day after a "technical meeting" between Iran and the Iran "5 +1" on Tuesday that, as expected, failed to produce any meaningful results.
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