The world must avoid a major military confrontation over the attacks on ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, writes Angus Robertson.
The first shots in conflicts often start in places you’ve never heard of, like Fort Sumter for the US Civil War, shelling from the SMS Bodrog on the Danube for the First World War or the Gleiwitz incident for the Second World War.
Hopefully, events in the Hormuz strait in the last week aren’t the start of another conflict in the Middle East, to go down in the history books as the first shots in a major conflagration. As you will have seen on the news, two ships were attacked in this strategic area, which is the key access to the Persian Gulf. To its north is Iran while countries to its south are regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
This choke point is vital for the oil supplies to large parts of the world, with more than 22 million barrels of oil being shipped per day. The United States, UK and Saudi Arabia believe the attack was by the Iranians, while Tehran say it wasn’t them.
The US says that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was filmed removing an unexploded mine from the side of a Japanese-owned tanker. The operators, however, say that it was a flying object that struck the tanker. Either way, the risks of military escalation are rising, as the US deploys extra military capability to protect shipping, and the Iranians feel badly treated having kept their side of an international nuclear deal.
The United Nations has called for all countries to avoid a major confrontation and an independent investigation into the shipping attacks. Hopefully everyone can agree with that.
READ MORE: US claims Iran removed unexploded mine