January 13, 2012

Who owns the Straits of Hormuz?

Rense -  Iran borders the north side of the Strait. The United Arab Emirates and Oman border the south side. The Strait is so narrow however that the adjacent coastal states are subject to special constraints of the Law of the Sea. In principle, under the United Nations Convention of 1982, all coastal states are entitled to claim coastal waters out to a 12 nautical mile limit, but the Strait is only 21 nautical miles wide at its choke point. The maximum either side could assert a right to is 10.5 nautical miles.


To observe the rights of coastal states while also serving the needs of maritime navigation, special rules have been established for the Strait: A six mile navigation channel has been defined consisting of a 2 mile wide inbound lane, a 2 mile wide separation lane, and a 2 mile wide outbound lane. Nominally, the inbound lane impinges on Iranian territorial waters, while the outbound lane impinges on UAE and Omani waters. The Law of the Sea permits innocent passage in both directions to all maritime users.


In present circumstances, what actually is innocent passage? The steady flow of oil and commercial cargo through the Strait obviously qualifies.   However, United States military and a range of contract commercial shipping, as well as coalition member shipping [passed] through the Strait en route to Iraq and neighboring states to support the Iraq War. That flow qualifies as "innocent" passage to the extent that vessels in transit threaten no state on either side.  All surface shipping to support the war has to come that way, and no one questioned it.


The situation, to say the least, is ambiguous. The more strident the warlike media play around Iran becomes, the higher grows the risk that someone will misinterpret intentions.


Strait of Hormuz - Unfortunately in the Strait of Hormuz and the waters to the west of it, shipping lanes run close to and in some areas through Iranian territorial waters. Under international maritime law the Iranians are entitled to monitor this traffic but the traffic, including warships, is entitled to unimpeded transit. As the US and Iran view each other with great mistrust, the potential for conflict is high.
Two things complicate the matter further. The first is that the USA has not ratified (formally agreed to abide by) the relevant legislation on international maritime law: the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The second is that, according to UNCLOS, if there are islands lying off a nation’s coast then the 12 miles extend from the outermost island.
The area of sea around the Strait of Hormuz contains several islands, for many of which the ownership is claimed by both Iran and the United Arab Emirates, a pro-western country. Whoever owns the islands will own the territorial waters around them, according to international maritime law as it is usually interpreted.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rense?? Sure, they're echoing what seems to be a standard "wikipedia" type mention of the Strait's geography, but Rense is about the last place for honest discussion of anything. It's a great place for science fiction stories, conspiracy hoaxes (which discredit actual conspiracies) and a variety of absurdities that make mainstream media seem honest in comparison.

In 2006, Rense published an article by Holocaust Denier Robert Faurisson, who claimed that if one did not want an attack on Iran then one should back the cause of Holocaust Denial. Neither is acceptable.

I hope at least some of the Holocaust Deniers are false flag operations from the Mossad, since they are used to discredit criticism of Israeli militarism.