In early January the US announced an agreement to supply the UAE with two Terminal High Altitude Defense Batteries (THAAD), 96 missiles, and 30 years’ worth of spare parts. The deal which had been under negotiation for several years was worth $3.5 billion dollars, and represented the first foreign sale of the advanced missile defense system. The deal was completed in tandem with the announcement of a $30 billion arms sale of 84 F-15′s and upgrade kits to Saudi Arabia.
Both sales come at a time of increasingly tense saber rattling in the Gulf. In the wake of increasing economic concerns at home and an impending round of new international sanctions, Iran ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric, taking aim at the Strait of Hormuz, and declaring their ability to blockade it at will. This set off alarm bells in Washington and throughout the region and sparked a crisis that is still being played out today.
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by Richard Lightbown
Global Research, January 24, 2012
Debkafile reported on 17 January that an imminent joint Israeli-US exercise had been cancelled by Israel’s prime minister, and not by the US as widely supposed. Convinced that Iran has made the decision to become a nuclear power Mr Netanyahu is preparing for possible unilateral attacks on Iranian nuclear sites.
British press reports say agents from the CIA and MI6 are operating within Syria while British and French Special Forces are training members of the Free Syrian Army in Turkey. Pravda has claimed that NATO snipers who fought in Libya have been sent to Syria.
As regional war threatens drastic and unforeseen consequences in the Middle East some commentators claim that humanitarian benefits justify Western intervention in repressive states. This claim is worth considering in the context of the events that have befallen Libya.
After years of U.S. threats, Iran is taking steps which suggest that is both willing and capable of closing the Strait of Hormuz. On December 24, 2011 Iran started its Velayat-90 naval drills in and around the Strait of Hormuz and extending from the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (Oman Sea) to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
Since the conduct of these drills, there has been a growing war of words between Washington and Tehran. Nothing theObama Administration or the Pentagon have done or said so far, however, has deterred Tehran from continuing its naval drills.
The Geo-Political Nature of the Strait of Hormuz
Besides the fact that it is a vital transit point for global energy resources and a strategic chokepoint, two additional issues should be addressed in regards to the Strait of Hormuz and its relationship to Iran. The first concerns the geography of the Strait of Hormuz. The second pertains to the role of Iran in co-managing the strategic strait in accordance with international law and its sovereign national rights.
The maritime traffic that goes through the Strait of Hormuz has always been in contact with Iranian naval forces, which are predominantly composed of the Iranian Regular Force Navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy. In fact, Iranian naval forces monitor and police the Strait of Hormuz along with the Sultanate of Oman via the Omani enclave of Musandam. More importantly, to transit through the Strait of Hormuz all maritime traffic, including the U.S. Navy, must sail through Iranian territorial waters. Almost all entrances into the Persian Gulf are made through Iranian waters and most exits are through Omani waters.
Iran allows foreign ships to use its territorial waters in good faith and on the basis of Part III of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea’s maritime transit passage provisions that stipulate that vessels are free to sail through the Strait of Hormuz and similar bodies of water on the basis of speedy and continuous navigation between an open port and the high seas. Although Tehran in custom follows the navigation practices of the Law of the Sea, Tehran is not legally bound by them. Like Washington, Tehran signed this international treaty, but never ratified it.
American-Iranian Tensions in the Persian Gulf
In recent developments, the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) is re-evaluating the use of Iranian waters at the Strait of Hormuz by foreign vessels.