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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran reiterates sovereignty over Abu Musa Island

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Tehran, June 10, IRNA -- Iranian Parliament has reiterated Iran's sovereignty over Abu Musa Island considering the historical ownership of the Islands in the Persian Gulf.

There have been reports of large oil deposits under Abu Musa. Moreover, Iran has expressed displeasure with the amount of oil that it receives from the small, offshore oil field.

Control of Abu Musa could also directly affect shipping. All of Iranian oil tanker traffic must pass through this area; making the security of the area very important. Iranian sovereignty over the islands reassures free navigation through the Strait of Hormuz.

Abu Musa lies at the mouth of the narrow Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil supplies pass. About 15 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) -- equivalent to Europe's daily consumption -- pass through the mouth of the Persian Gulf in tankers.

Any blockade of this strategic Strait would restrict supplies to consumers in Asia, Europe, and the US.

Japan, which gets more than 70 percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf, and the US, which takes 1.6 million bpd from Middle East states, would be more sensitive than others to such a blockade.

During the Tanker War in the Persian Gulf in the 1980s, Iran made considerable use of Abu Musa. Small craft and helicopters were stationed there in order to control the waterway, and several Silkworm anti-ship missile sites were built on the island.

Iran has recently purchased three Russian Kilo- class submarines, and two of them have been delivered. In addition, Iran has also purchased five Chinese-made fast-attack patrol boats of the "Huodong" class.

Iran has intensified naval exercises over the past two to three years that included several scenarios focusing on closure of the Strait.

Iran's recent actions may not demonstrate a desire to take control of the Strait. Harold Hough, of Jane's Intelligence Review, states that "the military build-up is part of a greater move by Iran to spread its influence in the Persian Gulf rather than an attempt to solidify its hold on the Strait."

Abu Musa gives Iran a base for projecting its power and influence south toward the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council.

Control of Abu Musa also gives extra protection to Bandar Abbas, an Iranian port important for its oil industry and military base.

According to Hough, "If Iran wanted to deny the waterway to the US Navy, missile sites near Bandar Abbas would be more valuable since they are on the Iranian mainland and the US would be less willing to attack them for both political and military reasons."

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 1020552

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