Emirates plan canal to bypass Iran

Strategically located in the Gulf between Iran and the UAE, the Hormuz Strait is the only sea passage to the open ocean for oil-rich exporters.

By THE MEDIA LINE STAFF
September 24, 2008 14:34
2 minute read.
Emirates plan canal to bypass Iran

iranian boats harass 224. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Iranian threats to close down the Hormuz Strait in the Gulf in case of a military attack are being taken seriously by the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE). Strategically located in the Gulf between Iran and the UAE, the Hormuz Strait is the only sea passage to the open ocean for oil-rich exporters such as Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE. "Our oil revenues will be jeopardized if we don't find an alternative to using the Hormuz Strait for exporting oil," Dubai Chief of Police Lt.-Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim said earlier this week, according to the Emirati daily Gulf News. Tamim suggested that a plan, which had already been considered in the 1980s, to create a land canal at the northern end of the UAE, just south of the Hormuz Strait, would enable the country to relieve itself of the Iranian threat. The UAE, Tamim said, was seriously considering the expansion of export terminals on the east coast, with the possibility of creating a canal through the northern emirate of Ras Al-Kheima. This way, explained Tamim, oil tankers would be able to pass through without danger of being attacked by Iran. Tensions in the Gulf rose further last week as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanai assigned the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) with defending the waterway in the Gulf instead of the regular military navy. The announcement came from Khamanai's security adviser, the former commander of the IRGC, Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, who warned that any hostile targets throughout the Gulf would be within the reach of the IRGC's missiles. With 20,000 soldiers serving in its naval forces, the IRGC's navy is much smaller than the regular military navy. Nevertheless, Khamanai's move is considered by experts as potentially dangerous to regional security. "The regular military navy… has a decent working relationship with the coalition navies in the Gulf, that is to say they have certain rules of behavior and procedure to avoid incidents on the waterway," Dr. Shahram Chubin, an expert on Iran, told The Media Line. The IRGC, added Chubin, tended to "zoom around the coalition forces and intimidate them, call them names and create tensions with them." Talking about the financial benefits of a land canal, Tamim, who has commanded the Dubai Police since 1980, said it would considerably cut the time required to sail around the Hormuz Strait. Commenting on recent reports that Iran had deployed sleeper cells across the Gulf countries, including inside the UAE, Tamim warned that it was within his country's capabilities to do the same inside Iran, where 15 million Arabs are living. "Our strong bond with Iranians does not mean that the governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council will not react strongly to any action that will endanger their social stability and economic prosperity," Tamim concluded.

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