Persian Gulf Oil

October 30, 1987

Report Outline
Special Focus


Iran's attacks on an oil tanker and platform inside Kuwait's territorial waters have pulled outside powers deeper into the expanding “tanker war” between Iran and Iraq. The attacks in mid-October came just as U.S. warships completed their 11th mission escorting Kuwaiti oil tankers on the journey from the Gulf of Oman through the Strait of Hormuz to Kuwait's oil-loading terminals at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. Along the way, the U.S. convoy passed mine sweepers, frigates and destroyers of five European nations in what has become the biggest show of Western allied military force outside European territory since World War II.

Why the uncharacteristic show of force? Neither America nor any of the other countries whose navies are present in the gulf has a defense commitment in the region. All have carefully maintained a formal position of neutrality in the seven-year war of attrition between Iran and Iraq. However, the industrial nations look to the Middle East—in particular, the countries around the Persian Gulf—for much of their energy needs.

In the short run, the Western powers are concerned that either of the combatants in the war might halt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage at the southern end of the gulf. The construction of overland oil pipelines to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea has only diminished, not eliminated, the strait's strategic importance. A sudden cutoff of tanker traffic would still reduce the worldwide supply of oil.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jan. 04, 2008  Oil Jitters Updated
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Apr. 04, 1986  Oil Prices
Dec. 23, 1983  Quest for Energy Independence
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Mar. 15, 1974  Oil Taxation
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Nov. 01, 1972  Gasoline Prices
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Oct. 26, 1960  World Oil Glut
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