[credit provider=”wikimedia commons/NASA” url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stra%C3%9Fe_von_Hormuz.jpg”]
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards has floated the idea of creating a vast oil spill in the Strait of Hormuz to block the vital shipping lane, Erich Follath of Der Spiegel reports. The “top secret” plan, reportedly obtained by Western intelligence officials, would be aimed at forcing the West to join Iran in a large-scale cleanup that would potentially require a temporary suspension of the biting sanctions against Tehran.
Previously Iran has threatened to disrupt or close the waterway if its nuclear sites are attack by Israel and/or the United States.
Follath notes that Iran derives more than half of its government revenue from oil exports, which have dropped from about 2.4 million barrels a day in July 2011 to 1 million in July 2012.
But Iran has reduced oil production by less than a quarter, leading to its mainland storage tanks becoming full and forcing them to haul 40 million barrels of oil through the Gulf around the clock on 15 supertankers and smaller ships.
Iran now disguises the tankers, as The New York Times reported in July, which increases the risk of accidents.
The supposed Revolutionary Guard plan, code-named “Murky Water,” involves steering one of the supertankers onto a rock—thereby forcing the International Compensation Fund for Oil Pollution Damage to intervene financially, the West to temporarily lifting the sanctions so that Iranian authorities could provide technical assistance with the decontamination effort, and possibly leading to Revolutionary Guards-owned oil companies to profit from the cleanup program.
A secondary consequence of the plan would be to “punish” Arab countries hostile to Iran by temporarily shutting down the fishing industry in addition to blocking the passage of about 40 per cent of the world’s seaborne oil exports.
Follath reports that the “Murky Water” sabotage plan is presumably being considered by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Reuters reports that on Monday the EU agreed to a new round of major sanctions against Iran.