This isn’t the first time one of the world’s most strategically-important stretches of water has seen clashes. We take a look at other incidents that have destabilised the Persian Gulf.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf continue to escalate with reports that two oil tankers were “attacked” resulting in an explosion.
This follows last month’s attack on four ships in the Persian Gulf, off the UAE coast. As yet no culprits have been found, but that hasn’t stopped the US administration and the UAE from alleging that Iran was behind the attacks. No evidence has been provided by the US or the UAE that can be independently verified.
Iran for its part denies the accusation and sees the attacks as false flag operations that aim to provide the necessary justification for intervention or international isolation.
Attacks and tension in the Persian Gulf are far from new. Here are some past attacks in one of the world’s most strategic locations.
The Iran-Iraq war was one of the longest wars in the 20th Century, resulting in more than a million deaths and thousands of casualties.
Both sides during the war weaponised the sea lanes in a bid to damage each other's economies, in particular, their oil industries, through a war of economic attrition.
Iraq and Iran attacked international ships that were due to dock at each other's ports in order to halt oil exports which funded the war effort of both sides.
Iran very early in the war stopped international shipping from going to Iraq, and with Saudi Arabia helping to ship Iraqi oil, Iran expanded its area of operation in the Persian Gulf to include other states.
For the first three years of the war, Iraq was the main belligerent, however after 1984 Iran started to retaliate. By the end of the war, Iraq had attacked 283 ships heading to Iran versus 168 by Iran.
Ships using the flags of more than 38 countries were attacked which added an international dimension to the conflict and threatened to draw in other international actors.
Operation Praying Mantis
During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Iran had mined the Persian Gulf in particular against Iraqi shipping. When an American navy ship was damaged after coming into contact with an underwater explosion in 1988, the US retaliated ruthlessly.
Four days after the attack the US effectively destroyed the Iranian navy and reduced its operational capacity to near nil.
This operation was important in that it set back the Iranian navy many years from which it has only very slowly recovered.
Iran Air Flight 655
Soon after Operation Praying Mantis took place, one of the most controversial episodes of the Iran-Iraq war took place. On July 3, 1988, 290 civilians were killed when the US Navy shot down an Iranian airliner that it thought was an Iranian F14.
The Americans claimed that they shot down the plane accidentally, even as the plane was emitting a civilian signal and was on a civilian path within Iranian airspace.
Vice President George H. W. Bush at the time responded to the downing of the civilian airliner by saying: “I will never apologise for the United States of America—I don’t care what the facts are.”
Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the US has sought to either contain or overthrow the Iranian government.
The US presence in the Persian Gulf has often resulted in heightened tension between the two as both countries view to assert their presence.
In 2014, for instance, Iranian planes buzzed a US naval destroyer warning that it should leave the Straits of Hormuz as it was conducting a training exercise.
A similar skirmish occurred in 2015 when a US helicopter flew within 50 metres of an Iranian observation plane.