By Carolina Bell Meoño - Student of the School of International Relations
The recent US military intervention in Iran is nothing new. The US and Iran have been in multiple struggles packed with tension since the early 80s. The 2020 intervention was only an additional conflict as results of more recent events, for instance the Stena Impero British oil tanker that was seized by Iran while on its way to Saudi Arabia in 2019. We might wonder what the root of such conflicts is, the answer is centered in the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow body of water where oil tankers pass through daily, and which represents roughly 20% of the world’s supply of oil. In the past, it was been called no less than the “jugular of global economy”, and a recurrent trigger of US-Iran struggles.
A Strait of Struggles
Since early 1980s, the Strait of Hormuz has been a place of tension between the US and Iran, in which attacks and conflicts within the strait have had the power to affect oil prices around the world directly. Since then, there has been a rollercoaster of tensions, including nuclear tensions, that in 2011 led to US sanctions against Iran. Former president Barack Obama signed an executive order to target Iran’s petrochemical industry, this caused a huge drop in Iran oil exports and caused the country’s income to shrink. In response, Iran used the only leverage it had, the Strait of Hormuz, threatening that no tankers would pass if Iran continue to be sanctioned. (Marcus, 2019).
After 2 years of discussions, negotiations eventually led to an Iran Nuclear Deal to scale back the country’s nuclear program in 2015, that is until 2018, when Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal claiming it didn’t go far enough, plummeting both countries into tensions once again. (Kingsley, 2019) So far, the tensions have risen to boiling points, with Iran claiming the US is not interested in diplomacy, which is what Iran is looking for instead of negotiations like those done prior to 2015.
This clear lack of diplomacy and willingness between a hegemon led by a Head of State lacking conflict negotiation and resolution skills, and a less powerful but equally capable country could easily escalate into war. For some, tensions as risky as these have not been seen since the 80s tanker wars and Trump has mentioned several times how the US military is ready to strike against Iran. In order to truly understand this conflict, it’s crucial to take into account past history. It is becoming even clearer that without direct diplomatic contact between these two nations, the future could hold even nastier consequences, and turn into full on war in the Middle East. Diplomatic ties are in strong need for reinforcement, and pressure from other international powers should be enforced in an effort to mediate if a future war is to be stopped. There is hope if the future president of the US is willing to rekindle these diplomatic ties, but only the upcoming 2020 election will tell. Good news is potential US presidential candidates are already speaking up against more conflict with Iran, and have shown a clearer understanding of the importance of diplomatic resolutions.