Strait of Hormuz

Strait of Hormuz

The Strait of Hormuz ( _fa. تنگه هرمز - "Tangeh-ye Hormoz", _ar. مضيق هرمز - "Madīq Hurmuz") is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf in the southwest. On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman.

The strait at its narrowest is convert|21|mi|km wide.cite web |url= |title=The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (A historical perspective) |publisher=UN |work=Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea] It is the only sea passage to the open ocean for large areas of the petroleum-exporting Persian Gulf. It is cited that between 20% [citation|url= |title= Straight of Hormuz and the threat of an oil shock |author=U.S. Congressman Jim Saxton|date=July 2007|accessdate=2008-06-17] [cite news |url= |title=With Iran Ascendant, U.S. Is Seen at Fault| |author=Anthony Shadid |date=January 30 2007 |accessdate=2007-12-29] and 40% [cite news |url= |title=Thirty-two killed by Oman cyclone |publisher=BBC News |date=June 8 2007 |accessdate=2007-12-29] [ [ Iran test-fires more missiles in Persian Gulf ] ] of the world's oil supply passes through the strait, making it one of the world's strategically important chokepoints.


Ships moving through the Strait follow a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), which separates inbound from outbound traffic to reduce the risk of collision. The traffic lane is six miles (10 km) wide, including two two-mile (3 km)-wide traffic lanes, one inbound and one outbound, separated by a two-mile (3 km) wide separation median.

To traverse the Strait, ships pass through the territorial waters of Iran and Oman under the "transit passage" provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Although not all countries have ratified the convention,cite web |url= |title=Chronological lists of ratifications of, accessions and successions to the Convention and the related Agreements as at 26 October 2007 |publisher=UN |work=Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea] most countries, including the U.S., [citation|url=|title=Presidential Proclamation 5030|author=U.S. President Ronald Reagan|date=March 10, 1983|accessdate=2008-01-21] accept these customary navigation rules as codified in the Convention.


The opening to the Persian Gulf was described, but not given a name, in the "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea", a 1st-century mariner's guide:

:Ch.35. At the upper end of these Calaei islands is a range of mountains called Calon, and there follows not far beyond, the mouth of the Persian Gulf, where there is much diving for the pearl-mussel. To the left of the straits are great mountains called Asabon, and to the right there rises in full view another round and high mountain called Semiramis; between them the passage across the strait is about six hundred stadia; beyond which that very great and broad sea, the Persian Gulf, reaches far into the interior. At the upper end of this Gulf there is a market-town designated by law called Apologus, situated near Charaex Spasini and the River Euphrates.

There are two opinions about the etymology of this name. In popular belief the derivation is from the name of the Persian God هرمز "Hormoz" (a variant of "Ahura Mazda"). Compare the Pillars of Hercules at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Scholars, historians and linguists derive the name "Ormuz" from the local Persian word هورمغ "Hur-mogh" meaning datepalm. In the local dialects of Hurmoz and Minab this strait is still called Hurmogh and has the aforementioned meaning.


Operation Praying Mantis

On 18 April 1988, the U.S. Navy waged a one-day battle against Iranian forces in and around the strait. The battle, dubbed Operation Praying Mantis by the U.S. side, was launched in retaliation for the 14 April mining of the USS "Samuel B. Roberts" (FFG-58). U.S. forces sank two Iranian warships, Joshan and as many as six armed speedboats in the engagement.

The downing of Iran Air 655

On July 3, 1988, 290 people were killed when an Iran Air Airbus A300 passenger jet was shot down over the strait by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS "Vincennes". There is still lingering controversy about the event, considered among the most controversial tragedies in aviation history.

Collision between USS "Newport News" and tanker "Mogamigawa"

On January 10, 2007, the nuclear submarine USS "Newport News", traveling submerged, struck M/V "Mogamigawa", a 300,000-ton Japanese-flagged very large crude tanker, south of the strait. [cite web |url= |title=Navy says speed of tanker sucked submarine up to surface |publisher=The Virginian Pilot |date=10 January 2007 |author=Jack Dorsey]

2008 US-Iranian naval dispute

A series of naval stand-offs between Iranian speedboats and US warships in the Strait of Hormuz occurred in December 2007 and January 2008. US officials accused Iran of harassing and provoking their naval vessels; Iranian officials denied these allegations. On January 14 2008, US naval officials appeared to contradict the Pentagon version of the Jan. 16 event, in which U.S. officials said U.S. vessels were near to firing on approaching Iranian boats. The Navy's regional commander, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, said the Iranians had "neither anti-ship missiles nor torpedoes" and that he "wouldn't characterize the posture of the US 5th Fleet as afraid of these small boats". [cite web |url= |title= A game of chicken in the Persian Gulf |publisher=AsiaTimes (with content from BloombergNews) |date=10 January 2008 |author=David Isenberg]

2008 Iranian Threats

On June 29, 2008, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Ali Mohammed Jafari, stated that if Iran were attacked by Israel or the United States, it would seal off the Strait of Hormuz, thereby wreaking havoc in oil markets. This statement followed other more ambiguous threats from Iran's oil minister and other government officials that a Western attack on Iran would result in oil supply turmoil.

In response, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet stationed in Bahrain across the Persian Gulf from Iran, warned that such an action by Iran would be considered an act of war, and that the U.S. would not allow Iran to effectively hold hostage nearly a third of the world's oil supply. [cite web |url=,2933,374905,00.html|title= U.S. Navy Commander Warns Iran: Don't Try Closing Gulf Oil Passageway|publisher=Fox News |date=2 July 2008]

On July 8, 2008, Ali Shirazi, a mid-level clerical aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted by the student news agency ISNA as saying to Revolutionary Guards, "The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned." [cite web |url=|title=Iran to "hit Tel Aviv, U.S. ships" if attacked|publisher=Yahoo News |date=8 July 2008]

One analyst concluded that Iran could seal off or impede traffic in the Strait for a month, and a U.S. attempt to reopen it would likely escalate the conflict. [ [ Closing Time: Assessing the Iranian Threat to the Strait of Hormuz] , International Security journal, Harvard Kennedy School ]

2008 Naval Activity

In the last week of July 2008, Operation Brimstone [cite web |url=|title = JTFEX 08-4 "Operation Brimstone" Flexes Allied Force Training|publisher=US Navy|date=15 July 2008] brought dozens of US and foreign navys’ ships together off the US East Coast for joint exercises and practice in littoral operations (such as would be used in the shallow waters off the coast of Iran).

As of August 11, 2008, more than 40 US and allied ships are reported en route to the Straits of Hormuz. One US carrier battle group from Japan will complement two more which are already in the Gulf, for a total of five battle groups, not counting submarines. [cite web |url= |title = Three major US naval strike forces due this week in Persian Gulf|publisher=Debkafile|date=11 August 2008]

Speculation based on the vessel listing [cite web |url= |title = Massive US Naval Armada Heads for Iran|publisher=RH The Earl of Stirling|date=7 August 2008] indicates a possible intent of mounting an economic blockade against Iran.

ee also

*Abu Musa island
*List of islands of Iran
*Kingdom of Hormuz


Further reading

*cite book
author=Wise, Harold Lee
title= [ Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf 1987-88]
location=Annapolis | publisher=Naval Institute Press
id=ISBN 1-59114-970-3

External links

* [ Robert Strauss Center's Hormuz website: background on the political, economic, business, technical, and military issues]
* [ Strait of Hormuz website:] includes antique maps
* Federation of American Scientists about the weapons on the islands []
* [ Strait of Hormuz – U.K. Admiralty Chart 2888 (excerpt) (1580 pixels)]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Strait of Hormuz — noun a strategically important strait linking the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman • Syn: ↑Strait of Ormuz • Instance Hypernyms: ↑strait, ↑sound • Part Holonyms: ↑Arabian Sea …   Useful english dictionary

  • Strait of Hormuz — noun A strait connecting the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf …   Wiktionary

  • Strait of Hormuz — narrow channel of water between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran (passage to the Persian Gulf) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Hormuz — is distorted from the Persian Ohrmuzd , meaning Ahura Mazda . It can refer to:* The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. * Hormoz Island, part of Iran. * The Kingdom of Ormus …   Wikipedia

  • Hormuz — /hawr moohz , hawr muz/, n. Strait of, a strait between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, connecting the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Also, Ormuz. * * * ▪ island, Iran Persian  Jazīreh ye Hormoz,  also called  Ormuz,         mostly barren …   Universalium

  • strait — straitly, adv. straitness, n. /strayt/, n. 1. Often, straits. (used with a sing. v.) a narrow passage of water connecting two large bodies of water. 2. Often, straits. a position of difficulty, distress, or need: Ill and penniless, he was in sad… …   Universalium

  • Strait — A strait is a narrow, navigable channel of water that connects two larger navigable bodies of water. It most commonly refers to a channel of water that lies between two land masses, but it may also refer to a navigable channel through a body of… …   Wikipedia

  • Hormuz — or Ormuz geographical name ancient town S Iran on Strait of Hormuz (strait connecting Persian Gulf & Gulf of Oman) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Strait of Ormuz — noun a strategically important strait linking the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman • Syn: ↑Strait of Hormuz • Instance Hypernyms: ↑strait, ↑sound • Part Holonyms: ↑Arabian Sea …   Useful english dictionary

  • Hormuz — [hôr mo͞oz′, hôr′məz] Strait of strait joining the Persian Gulf & the Gulf of Oman, between Arabia & Iran …   English World dictionary

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