War Imminent in Straits of Hormuz? $200 a Barrel Oil?
by John Daly
Thursday, 29 December 2011
The pieces and policies for potential conflict in the Persian Gulf are seemingly drawing inexorably together.
Since 24 December the Iranian Navy has been holding its ten-day Velayat 90 naval exercises, covering an area in the Arabian Sea stretching from east of the Strait of Hormuz entrance to the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden. The day the maneuvers opened Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told a press conference that the exercises were intended to show “Iran’s military prowess and defense capabilities in international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries, and test the newest military equipment.” The exercise is Iran’s first naval training drill since May 2010, when the country held its Velayat 89 naval maneuvers in the same area. Velayat 90 is the largest naval exercise the country has ever held.
The participating Iranian forces have been divided into two groups, blue and orange, with the blue group representing Iranian forces and orange the enemy. Velayat 90 is involving the full panoply of Iranian naval force, with destroyers, missile boats, logistical support ships, hovercraft, aircraft, drones and advanced coastal missiles and torpedoes all being deployed. Tactics include mine-laying exercises and preparations for chemical attack. Iranian naval commandos, marines and divers are also participating.
The exercises have put Iranian warships in close proximity to vessels of the United States Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, which patrols some of the same waters, including the Strait of Hormuz, a 21 mile-wide waterway at its narrowest point. Roughly 40 percent of the world’s oil tanker shipments transit the strait daily, carrying 15.5 million barrels of Saudi, Iraqi, Iranian, Kuwaiti, Bahraini, Qatari and United Arab Emirates crude oil, leading the United States Energy Information Administration to label the Strait of Hormuz “the world’s most important oil chokepoint.”