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Global Superpowers Vie For Power In World’s Most Important Oil Chokepoint

Iran, Russia, and China will begin on Saturday joint navy drills in the northern Indian Ocean, an Iranian military spokesman said on Wednesday, amid simmering tensions in the Middle East throughout this year.

According to comments from Iranian military spokesman General Abolfazl Shekarchi, as carried by Associated Press, the joint four-day exercise will be aimed at promoting security in the region and will extend as far as the Gulf of Oman—the gulf connecting the Arabian Sea with the world’s most critical oil chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz, and with the Persian Gulf.

The Strait of Hormuz is the most important oil chokepoint in the world with daily oil flows averaging 21 million bpd, or the equivalent of 21 percent of global petroleum liquids consumption. According to EIA estimates, 76 percent of the crude oil and condensate that moved through the Strait of Hormuz last year went to Asian markets, with China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore the top destinations.

Several high-profile incidents this year have increased the tension between Iran and the West in the Middle East and in the Strait of Hormuz, which is in close proximity to Iranian coasts. 

In the summer, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in what appeared to be a retaliatory move after the British overseas territory Gibraltar had earlier seized an Iranian oil tanker with the help of the UK Royal Marines.

Related: Trump Follows Up On His Promise To Protect Syrian Oil

Tension in the region further escalated after the attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure in the middle of September.

Days after the attacks on vital oil infrastructure in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia said it had decided to join the U.S.-led maritime security coalition that aims to ensure freedom of navigation and safe passage through the Persian Gulf.

The upcoming joint Iran-Russia-China navy drill is seen as a response to the U.S. navy maneuvers in the Persian Gulf region in recent months.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • J Welsh on December 29 2019 said:
    To be clear the USA does not recognize the UNCLOS and follows its own doctrine of freedom of navigation. They conduct provocitive patrols all the time to prove their comitment. China can afford to maintain a tacticaly efficient force in the area Russia can not. I do agree with your statements and will simply add any russian presence would be symbolic or intermitent at best.
  • Hugh Williams on December 28 2019 said:
    The group within the US power structure that developed the New American Century policy in the 1990s and planned the 9/11 event have been outwitted by developments in anti-ship missiles.
    If a war starts our very expensive navy can quickly be destroyed.

    To date we have destroyed the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Our activity in Syria destroyed the country but not the government. Trillions of dollars have been used that could have been spent on the USA and the USA has in no way benefitted, but no policy change has been made and my view is any President that tries to rationalise our foreign policy will be neutralised.
  • Mamdouh Salameh on December 26 2019 said:
    Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, responsibility for security and the protection of the Hormuz Strait, the world’s most vital chokepoint, are the responsibility of the countries bordering the Strait, namely Iran and the Sultanate of Oman.

    The United States has given itself the responsibility of protecting the oil resources of the Gulf region and the Strait of Hormuz when it is overwhelmingly perceived by the countries and people of the Gulf as the cause of the trouble there. It poses a threat to the oil wealth of the Gulf region with the ultimate hope of getting its hand on it.

    Examples abound. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was about oil. American troops in Syria are stealing Syria’s oil as a retired American General accused President Trump of turning American troops deployed in Syria into oil pirates. The United States is enviously eyeing Venezuela's oil wealth, the world's biggest.

    Russia and China have never given themselves the right to defend the Gulf region or the Strait of Hormuz. Whenever, they are in the area, it is at the invitation of one of the countries of the Gulf. The recent joint naval exercises by China, Russia and Iran in the area are taking place at the invitation of Iran.

    However, if the United States insists on maintaining a military presence in the Persian Gulf, so would Russia and China.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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