Here's everything you should know about Iran’s aggression in the Strait of Hormuz

news
Limpet Mine Attack in the Gulf of Oman

The seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the latest example of how tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled into one of the world's most strategic and vital waterways for oil. Since May, Iran has been accused of harassing and attacking oil tankers in the strait.

As the British government continues to investigate Friday's seizure, experts worry that it raises the potential of a military clash. However, they also say it offers a lens into Iran's strategy toward the U.S.

Here is a look at what's been happening and why the Strait of Hormuz matters.


Q. Why is the Strait of Hormuz important?

A. The Strait of Hormuz is the busiest, most important waterway for the world's oil industry. More than a third of the world's seaborne oil passes through the strait, which connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and is situated between Oman and Iran. In 2016, the Energy Information Administration estimated that 18.5 million barrels of oil passed each day through the shipping lane, which is only two miles wide.

Q. What's been going on there?

A. Over the last several months, the United States has accused Iran of attacking and harassing commercial shipping vessels on the waterway, as well as shooting down a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf.

And American warships have had close encounters with Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and its allies have found themselves responding in a tit-for-tat with Iran. On July 4, British marines seized an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar after claiming it had violated European Union sanctions by transporting oil to Syria. Late this week, the U.S. said it had downed an Iranian drone; Iran denied it.

The events have raised concerns that the tensions could lead to a military conflict.

This isn't the first time that the Strait of Hormuz has been the site of international conflict. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the waterway became a point of contention for the warring countries. Iran placed sea mines in the paths of ships, and Iraq retaliated by firing missiles at them.

Q. What is Iran trying to achieve?

A. Experts said Iranian officials are trying to demonstrate to the U.S. and its allies that the Islamic Republic is able to push back and gain leverage against the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" policy, which intensified after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the landmark nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions, making it difficult for Iran to export oil, the foundation of the country's economy.

China, Russia and leading Western European countries have sought ways around the U.S. sanctions, but it has been difficult to bypass them.

"The message that Iran is sending is that it is capable of making international waters unsafe not just for the U.S., but for international trade," said Reza Akbari, a program manager and Iran expert at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

By escalating the risk of conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, Ariane Tabatabai, an associate political scientist at Rand Corp., said that Iranian officials will be able to use that as leverage and as bargaining chips if they were to resume negotiations with the U.S.

"The Iranian strategy is designed to get Europeans and the international community to step up and force the U.S. to change its policy," Tabatabai said.

"Iranian officials want to make sure the international community also understands that they have a stake. But the situation remains fragile, and it's unclear whether Iran's gamble will pay off or raise the risk of a military conflict."

———

©2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Sgt. Ryan Blount, 27th Brigade, New York Army National Guard, rests in a hallway after a full day of field training, before heading back out Jan. 16, 2015, at Alexandria International Airport, La. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Cliffton Dolezal)

(Reuters Health) - Soldiers who experience sleep problems during basic combat training may be more likely to struggle with psychological distress, attention difficulties, and anger issues during their entry into the military, a recent study suggests.

"These results show that it would probably be useful to check in with new soldiers over time because sleep problems can be a signal that a soldier is encountering difficulties," said Amanda Adrian, lead author of the study and a research psychologist at the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.

"Addressing sleep problems early on should help set soldiers up for success as they transition into their next unit of assignment," she said by email.

Read More Show Less
The Armed Forces Service Medal has a green, blue and yellow ribbon and a bronze medal featuring a torch like that held by the Statue of Liberty. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Thousands of U.S. service members who've been sent to operate along the Mexico border will receive a military award reserved for troops who "encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action."

The Pentagon has authorized troops who have deployed to the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since last April to receive the Armed Forces Service Medal. Details about the decision were included in a Marine Corps administrative message in response to authorization from the Defense Department.

There is no end date for the award since the operation remains ongoing.

Read More Show Less
Photo: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.

Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.

It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.

Read More Show Less
Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

It all began with a medical check.

Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.

It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.

Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Cpt. Katrina Hopkins and Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers, assigned to Task Force Warhorse, pilot a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operation at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Javion Siders)

U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.

However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

Read More Show Less