US-Iran tensions: All you need to know about Gulf of Oman, shipping route for oil producing countries in Persian Gulf

The Gulf of Oman serves as an entrance to the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It connects with the Persian Gulf through the shallow Strait of Hormuz.

Al Jazeera states that “the Strait of Hormuz is the world's single most important oil passageway, forming a chokepoint between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The 39-kilometre strait is the only route to the open ocean for over one-sixth of global oil production and one-third of the world's liquified natural gas (LNG)".

Therefore, the Gulf of Oman is an integral shipping route for the oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf. Major oil exporters and importers of the world have a joint concern of ensuring security in the region.

Present situation in the Gulf of Oman

In July 2018, as the US looked to limit Iran’s petroleum revenues, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned that his country could disrupt oil tankers passing through the strait. Following an attack on two oil tankers — Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous — in the Gulf of Oman on 13 June 2019, serious concerns about the global oil supply have come to the fore. A month prior to the tanker explosion, four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were attacked near Fujairah.

 US-Iran tensions: All you need to know about Gulf of Oman, shipping route for oil producing countries in Persian Gulf

An oil tanker after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman. Reuters

While the US accused Iran’s involvement in the attack, the latter denied the charge. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assessment behind attack on the oil tankers was based on the "intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication".

US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook added to the available information on 13 June attacks, saying the US intelligence has confirmed that Iranian vessels had approached the tankers before the explosion happened.

Saudi Arabia and Britain backed the US’ stance. On the flip side, Russia supported Iran and warned against making "hasty conclusions" over the attack. While the international community holds varied viewpoints regarding the attack, one would not want to hamper a prime region of strategic importance.

The Indian Ocean Region is of great strategic importance to India. Hence, the country’s energy security is also connected to the security of ships as they operate in the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. Amid recent incidents, the Indian Navy has reassured safety of Indian vessels operating in the region. "INS Chennai and INS Sunayna have been deployed in the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to undertake maritime security operations. In addition, aerial surveillance by Indian Navy aircraft is also being undertaken in the area," the Navy said.

It also confirmed that aerial surveillance by Indian Navy aircraft was being undertaken in the area.

There has been a visible effort by the US military at increasing its presence in West Asia. Recently, Pompeo announced approval $8.1 billion in arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

President Donald Trump accused Iran of attacking an American surveillance drone and approved military strikes against the country. Much to the delight of the region’s peace, the US has pulled back from launching an attack. Amid worsening relations between Washington and Tehran, the lack of dialogue and understanding is critical for restoring peace in West Asia.

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2019 21:30:02 IST