Why the U.S. Plan to Protect Tankers in the Persian Gulf Won't Deter Iran

Jul 8, 2019 | 06:00 GMT

According to the U.S. military, a Japanese tanker was damaged by a limpet mine resembling Iranian mines on June 13, 2019.

Two oil tankers were damaged in twin attacks close to the Iranian coast on June 13, just outside the strategic Strait of Hormuz.


  • Following a series of attacks on crude-bearing ships, the United States is looking to initiate a new program to enhance security in the Persian Gulf region with significant involvement from its allies and partners. 
  • The effort is reminiscent of a similar operation in the region during the Iran-Iraq War, though some key differences point to a shifting U.S. approach to the region.  
  • The White House, however, will struggle to find allies willing to lend their support out of fear of being drawn into a potential conflict between the United States and Iran. 
  • Regardless, Washington's program will ultimately prove unsuccessful in deterring future attacks because it fails to address the underlying issue propelling Iran's actions — namely, the crushing economic pressure the United States has brought to bear over the past year. 

In response to the recent spat of Iran-linked attacks in the Persian Gulf, the United States has set out on an initiative aimed at securing oil tanker traffic in the area, while providing better visibility and attribution for any future incidents. Coined the Sentinel program, the operation would involve deploying additional warships and maritime patrol planes, as well as placing cameras and other surveillance devices on crude-bearing vessels transiting through the region.  To help lessen the strain on U.S. resources, the White House is now trying to corral the support of both regional and global allies who also risk having their oil supplies disrupted by Iranian attacks. But doing so will be no easy feat, as Washington's sanctions-heavy approach to Iran in the past year has alienated even its closest partners. However, even if the United States can successfully establish such a coalition, it still won't be enough to ensure that...

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