Iran Threatens Two More Naval Chokepoints In addition to the Strait of Hormuz.

Considerable attention is being given to Iranian threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which a large proportion of the world’s petroleum sails. The U.S Energy Information Administration estimates that “almost 17 million barrels in 2011, up from between 15.5-16.0 million bbl/d in 2009-2010,” sails past Iranian gun and missile emplacements along the coast, mine-laying ships, and Revolutionary Guard fast boats. In 2011, that amounted to “roughly 35 percent of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20 percent of oil traded worldwide.”

Yet the recent visit of two Iranian naval vessels to the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah should draw attention to two more vital naval chokepoints—the Bab el Mandeb Strait at the southern tip of the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal located between the northern tip of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. More than three million barrels of oil pass through the Bab el Mandeb every day on the way to the Suez Canal and the SUMED (Suez-Mediterranean) pipeline used by tankers that are too big to traverse the Canal. Closure of the Bab el Mandeb would force ships to travel around the southern tip of Africa.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration warns, “The international energy market is dependent upon reliable transport. The blockage of a chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs. In addition, chokepoints leave oil tankers vulnerable to theft from pirates, terrorist attacks, and political unrest in the form of wars or hostilities as well as shipping accidents which can lead to disastrous oil spills.”...

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