June 26, 2013

The Military-Economic Component of the Policy of Monarchies of the Persian Gulf. Part 4 “A workaround?”

Part 3 "The Suez Canal in the Plans of Arab Monarchs"

Part 2  "USA - geopolitical retreat"

Part 1 "The Persian Gulf since the end of the last millennium has firmly taken the position of an "explosive site of geopolitical reset"

As we all know, over the past few years, Iran and the United States did not skimp on mutual threats over the Persian Gulf. Iran was actively taking the appropriate measures, indicating that it was ready and able to close the Strait of Hormuz.

We take as our starting point December 24, 2011, when the Iranian Navy launched large-scale Naval trainings, code-named “Velayat-90”. The trainings were held in the vast territory stretching from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. It was after these trainings that the “active phase” of the constantly growing war of words between Washington and Tehran began. But nothing out of the said and done by now by Obama’s administration and the Pentagon has stopped Tehran, which continues its naval preparations.

The Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz

So what is the Strait of Hormuz? The Strait of Hormuz is not only a major transit corridor through which a huge amount of energy carriers is shipped, but also a strategically important "bottleneck." If we talk about the Strait of Hormuz in connection with Iran, we should mention two important points:

First — an exceptional geographical position of the Strait of Hormuz.

Second — Iran's role in the joint management of this strategic waterway in accordance with international Law and its sovereign national rights.

Marine traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is always carried out in cooperation with the Navy of Iran. In fact, the Iranian Navy exercise control and maintain order in the Strait of Hormuz in cooperation with the Sultanate of Oman via the Omani exclave of Musandam. But more important is the following. To pass through the Strait of Hormuz, all maritime vessels, including warships of the U.S. Navy, must pass through Iranian territorial waters. Almost all entrances into the Persian Gulf are going through Iranian waters and most exits out of it — through the waters of Oman.

Exclaves of Oman and the UAE
Exclaves of Oman and the UAE

Iran allows foreign ships to use its territorial waters on a voluntary basis, and pursuant to Part III of the UN Convention on the Law of the Transit Passage of Ships. It states that “ships may pass freely through the Strait of Hormuz and other bodies of water for the purpose of continuous, expeditious and unobstructed transit from an open port to the open sea and back again.” Although Tehran usually follows the practice of navigation, adopted in maritime Law, by law, it is not obliged to do so. Like Washington, Tehran signed this international treaty, but has not ratified it.

Exclaves of Oman and the UAERecently, the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) is re-evaluating the practice of using Iran’s territorial waters by foreign ships in the Strait of Hormuz. There has been proposed a draft of the law, depriving foreign warships of possibility to use Iranian waters to pass through the Strait of Hormuz without the permission of the IRI. Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy is currently studying a bill determining the official position of Iran. And of course, it will depend on the Iranian strategic interests and interests of national security.

The Naval Forces of the United States in the Strait of Hormuz are extremely vulnerable
The Naval Forces of the United States in the Strait of Hormuz are extremely vulnerable

U.S. Navy is definitely superior by its power to almost all the rest of the Fleets in the world. The U.S. Submarine Ocean Fleet is unmatched, but the superiority does not mean invulnerability. The Naval Forces of the United States in the Strait of Hormuz are very vulnerable.

Let's find out why. Geography of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz literally works against the U.S. Navy. The narrowness of the Persian Gulf makes it like a canal, at least in strategic and military terms. In fact, aircraft carriers and warships of the U.S. are locked in its narrow waters and near the Iranian coast. Nuclear missile submarines also have not enough room to turn around in the shallows.

And here an active and crucial role has to be played by modern missile complexes of the Iranian Armed Forces. The Iranian missile and torpedo arsenal can effectively deal with the U.S. warships in the waters of the Persian Gulf, where they have little or no room for maneuver. That is why the United States has been actively trying to create a Missile Defense System at the territory of the countries of Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG).

But that's not all. Washington also intends to transform the Strait of Hormuz into the backup route in order to weaken Iran.

The United States and its allies are well aware that Iran is capable of long time blocking the Strait. That's why Washington is working with Member States of the CCASG to redirect the flow of oil through pipelines bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, bringing it directly to the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. It also urges Iraq in negotiations with Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to reach an agreement on the construction of alternative routes for transportation of hydrocarbons.

Saudi Arabia, the construction of an oil pipeline in the desert
Saudi Arabia, the construction of an oil pipeline in the desert

Israel and Turkey are also very much interested in this strategic project. Ankara had talks with Qatar to establish an oil terminal in Turkey, where oil will be supplied through Iraq. The Turkish government is also trying to persuade Baghdad to bind its Southern oil fields to transit pipelines going through Turkey, as it has been done about the Northern oil fields of Iraq.

All this is connected with the concept of Ankara to transform Turkey into an energy corridor and an important transit hub for transporting energy carriers.

If this project succeeds, the importance of the Strait of Hormuz will be reduced. Exactly for this reason, the United Arab Emirates supported the construction of the Habshan-Fujairah pipeline also called Abu Dhabi, which is laid bypassing sea routes of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. The construction project was prepared in 2006, the contract was signed in 2007, while the construction of the pipeline began in 2008.The pipeline goes directly from Abu Dhabi to the port of Fujairah, located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea. In other words, the export oil from the UAE gets a direct access to the Indian Ocean. Apart from the construction of the pipeline, in Fujairah will be constructed strategic storage oil tanks to ensure the flow of oil to the world markets even if the Strait of Hormuz gets blocked.

Map of oil and gas pipelines in the Arabian Peninsula
Map of oil and gas pipelines in the Arabian Peninsula

Apart from the Petroline pipeline (this is the Saudi pipeline from East to West), Saudi Arabia is considering the establishment of alternative transit routes and is exploring ports of its Southern neighbors in the Arabian Peninsula, such as Oman and Yemen. Most of all Riyadh is interested in the Yemeni port of Mukalla, located on the coast of the Gulf of Aden.

Resumption of work of the IPSA (Iraq-Saudi Arabia) pipeline, built in the time of Saddam Hussein in order to avoid threats from the Strait of Hormuz and Iran, is the question that the Saudis are actively discussing with the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

If Syria and Lebanon have become countries dependent on the USA, it will be possible to resume the work of the closed Trans-Arabian oil pipeline and to create other alternative routes through the Arabian Peninsula to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Theoretically, Arabs can restore the work of the pipeline, but for this they need to obtain the consent of Syria and Lebanon to break through to the coveted by all oil companies of the world coast of the Mediterranean Sea. But so far permission from Bashar al-Assad is out of the question…

In chronological order, especially in light of the events that are unfolding in Lebanon and Syria, the United States continues to make persistent efforts to isolate Tehran. Iranian Navy’s trainings «Velayat-90", which took place in close proximity to the entrance to the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aden near the territorial waters of Yemen, also were held in front of the Gulf of Oman coast and eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates. Among other things, these trainings were meant to send a signal that Tehran is ready to operate outside of the Persian Gulf, and can strike or block the pipelines that bypass the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. military bases around Iran
U.S. military bases around Iran

Geography yet again is on Iran’s side. Laying of pipelines bypassing the Strait of Hormuz changes nothing in the sense that most of the oil fields owned by members of the CCASG, are located in the Gulf or near its coasts, that is, very close to Iran and therefore within its reach. As in the case of the Habshan-Fujairah pipeline, the Iranians could easily stop pumping oil from fields. Tehran is able to launch missile or air strikes, as well as to send to these areas land, air or amphibious forces. And to do so, it is not necessary to block the Strait of Hormuz, for the main Iranian threat is to shut off the flow of energy.

But the project is being implemented slowly. Why? Because of the states — members of the CCASG being not particularly in a hurry to invest into redirecting their oil through pipelines bypassing the Strait of Hormuz. Besides, they know that in case of hostilities, even before they begin, the U.S. Fifth Fleet, as planned, will have to destroy Iran's sources of danger to the oil logistics of Arabs.

With its combat experience of the war with Iraq, the study of the experience of use of the U.S. Navy in two wars in the Persian Gulf, the Naval Commandment of the IRI so far gives preference to the development of conventional submarine, midget submarines and high-speed combat boats of small displacement. That is, to those fighting forces that is able to maintain combat readiness in an environment of active electronic countermeasures and total air superiority of the forces of a possible opponent.

If tomorrow there is a war. The U.S. Fleet in the Persian Gulf
If tomorrow there is a war. The U.S. Fleet in the Persian Gulf.

Even small Iranian patrol boats operating in the Persian Gulf that seem paltry and insignificant compared to U.S. aircraft carriers and cruisers, are a real threat to them. Appearances are deceptive, and these Iranian boats could easily produce a real barrage of missiles capable of inflicting serious damage and sinking the biggest ships of the U.S. Navy. While the small-speed missile and torpedo boats are very hard to detect and even harder to destroy.

Iranian forces could also strike at the United States Navy, just with a missile attack from the Northern Coast of the Persian Gulf. Back in 2008, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy recognized the seriousness of the threat from Iran's mobile coastal missile batteries, anti-ship missiles and small missile boats and ships.

In an asymmetric naval warfare with the Fifth Fleet of the U.S. Navy, Iran could also use drones, hovercraft, mines, groups of combat divers and mini-submarines.

Simulation of the Pentagon's military actions also shows that a war with Iran in the Persian Gulf could be catastrophic for the U.S. Navy. An important example in this respect is war games in the Persian Gulf, code-named “Millennium Challenge — 2002”, held from 24th July to 15th August 2002. Their preparation had taken almost two years. These trainings have become one of the largest and most expensive of all the maneuvers conducted by the Pentagon.

“Millennium Challenge — 2002” trainings took place shortly after the Pentagon decided to keep the momentum of the war in Afghanistan and take aim at Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and eventually get the main trophy in the form of Iran in the course of its large-scale campaign to ensure the US dominance in the new millennium.

It is noteworthy that in the “Millennium Challenge” staff trainings, in response to a hypothetical U.S. attack, Iran responded with a missile attack, in which during the first day of the fighting alone, might have been killed more than 20,000 U.S. military servicemen, and the Naval grouping of the United States would have lost five amphibious ships, ten cruisers and one aircraft carrier.

On the second day of strategic trainings, persons, who were playing for Iran, sent missile and patrol boats into the attack on the U.S. group. Despite their apparent insignificance, the results of the trainings showed that the fate of the American Fleet in the Persian Gulf would be very sad.

Only when the trainings were played all over again, and more obstacles and difficulties were added for Iran, the U.S. Navy managed to ostensibly win.

Since 2011, Washington has begun to lead a new policy, the foundation of which is to form new alliances that would be able to achieve victory in the war with Iran.

In this regard, it is appropriate to recall the U.S. Defense Minister Chuck Hagel’s tour of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt — a step towards the formation of a new regional coalition. The strategic goal of this coalition is quite obvious — to ensure the USA’s dominance in the region through a system of unions and alliances. The very formation, as the unfolding events show, is quite easy and even with some enthusiasm of the countries wishing to “rally around the leader”. Just one small thing is left to be done — to "reformat" Iran. Possibly this will not be needed. In Iran took place Presidential election, which was won by the Reformer Hassan Rouhani. Of course, we should not get too excited in anticipation of immediate reforms, but still…

General Director of the Center for the Studies of Modern Iran, Rajab Safarov believes that Rouhani, most likely, will take a course on the restoration of relations with the West. “I believe that in any case, Hassan Rouhani and his team will give up the course of tough confrontation with the West, which had been held for eight years by now former, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Bad relations with the West in many ways have led to the extremely difficult economic situation in Iran and sharp lowering of standards of life of the population. “

We must assume that to solve Iran’s economic problems without a change of its foreign policy does not seem possible, and therefore we should expect that Rouhani first of all will try to solve the Iranian nuclear program. Among other things, the new President will also eliminate the outlined under Ahmadinejad cooling of relations between the secular and spiritual parts of the Iranian leadership. At the same time, presence in the leadership of the Reformist President (or liberal) will make the West look for peaceful solution of the problem without a hint of possible bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities. It is the arrival of the Reformist President that will strongly interfere with Washington’s attempt to use military actions against Tehran.

This was also mentioned by H.Rouhani during his first press-conference. Commenting on his vision of the problem and, in particular, possibility of official bilateral talks between Tehran and Washington, the new Iranian President stressed that this is an extremely sensitive issue, and it requires careful consideration. He also said, ”It's an old wound, and to cure it, you need to act prudently, but we certainly do not intend to continue the confrontation.” According to H. Rouhani, the laws of common sense dictate that the two countries — Iran and the United States — should think more about the future and try to solve the problems of the past. At the same time, the precondition for any negotiations must be mutual respect and appropriate conditions. “In the Algerian Declaration on the settlement of claims of the United States Government and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1981, — the President continued, — Americans have pledged not to interfere in the internal affairs of Iran, to recognize its legitimate rights, including that to nuclear development, and not to act against Iran unilaterally. Conditions for direct negotiations should be established on this basis, but it should be remembered that the new government intends to defend the legitimate rights of the Iranian people. We are ready to reduce the tension, and if we see a good attitude to us, then we will think about the direct talks."

U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf
U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf

To this day, Washington has been leading offensive actions against Iran using all available means. Tension in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf is just one component of a dangerous and multifaceted regional cold war running between Tehran and Washington in the Middle East and its vast surroundings.

Since 2001, the Pentagon has also been rebuilding the structure of its Armed Forces to wage non-traditional wars with such opponents as Iran. However, geography has always been against the Pentagon, and the United States has not yet found a solution to its naval dilemma in the Persian Gulf.

To be continued.