The Straits of Hormuz have been in contention for several weeks. Iran constantly threatens the closure of the Straits, and many people believe this to be a “virtually impossible task,” while I personally believe it can happen if Iran so desired. As noted previously, it would likely be a temporary closure. With that said, new revelations have unfolded this weekend indicate Iranian balking towards the subject of closing the Straits leaving the debate of closing the waterway, at least for now, a moot point.
Fars News reported this past weekend that Iran is working closely with the Iraqi government to establish a newly formed bilateral joint shipping line. Managing-Director of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) Seyed Ataollah Sadr stated that “launching a joint shipping line between Iran and Iraq will provide the ground for both countries’ private companies to set up a joint company to increase their cooperation.” He continued with the point that “Tehran and Baghdad would activate a joint committee in the near future for maritime cooperation.”
It is obvious that Iran would much rather form an Iraqi-Iranian alliance regarding the Straits of Hormuz than see it closed. Iran is facing serious economic hardships today and with an upcoming election in March, government officials may feel torn. Increasing domestic pressure from its citizens due to their sense of economic recession increases today and a magnitude of civil disobedience is being felt among the Iranian elite.
Establishing a joint shipping line with the newly formed Iraqi government makes complete sense. The United States removed military forces from Iraq and civil war between the Sunni’s and Shi’ites has become ever more looming. The newly formed Shi’ite dominant government of Iraq needs a serious helping hand from Iran assisting in controlling Iraq’s Sunni factions.
The irony behind this newly formed Iran-Iraq alliance stems in the fact that approximately 30 years ago, the two nations were at one another’s throats–literally. Iran and Iraq engaged in a ruthless war from 1980-1988, leaving anywhere between 500,000-1,000,000 people dead. During this crisis, chemical weapons were used in hopes of annihilating mass populations–genocide.
Of note, during the eight year Iraq-Iran war also came a three year war known as the “Tanker War.” The Tanker War lasted from 1984-1987. It was a war against merchant shipping, oil procurement, and international energy lifelines founded in the Straits of Hormuz. Iran and Iraq used the Straits as a focal point against one another–today, they use the Straits of Hormuz as a mutual opportunity.
While it remains arguable whether Iran can actually close the Straits of Hormuz, it appears that they truly have no intention to do so. Iran faces serious domestic issues, and if their domestic problems cannot be handled, they will likely need a hand in resolving their own internal conflict. Simultaneously, Iraq needs serious assistance in dealing with their own Sunni/Shi’ite divide. The newly created Shi’ite controlled Iraq and today’s struggling Iran appear to be a match made in heaven for the world’s largest Shi’ite populated region.
Kerry Patton, a combat service disabled veteran, is a senior analyst for WIKISTRAT and owner of IranWarMonitor.com. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security and interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies and the children’s book American Patriotism. You can follow him on Facebook.