The US asked Australia to support its actions in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz after its oil tankers have been seized or bombed, the US blaming Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps for all the attacks.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on August 21, 2019

Australia has agreed to a US request to join a coalition of countries protecting oil tankers and cargo ships from attack by Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

The decision comes after Iran hijacked a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, prompting UK retaliation, seizing an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar in the latest act of provocation.

“This destabilising behaviour is a threat to Australian interests in the region, particularly our enduring interests in the security of global sea lanes – 15-16% of crude oil, and 25-35% of refined oil destined for Australia transits through the Straits of Hormuz,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, ABC News reported. “So it is a potential threat to our economy.”

“The government has decided that it is in Australia’s national interest to work with our international partners to contribute. Our contribution will be limited in scope and it will be time-bound,” he said.

The Strait of Hormuz is the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean. A third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and almost 25% of total global oil consumption passes through the 167-kilometre long stretch of water.

Australia will contribute a navy frigate, a maritime patrol aircraft, and planning and operations personnel from January next year.

“Freedom of navigation through international waters is a fundamental right of all states under international law. All states have a right to expect safe passage of their maritime trade consistent with international law. It is in Australia’s interest to work with international partners to uphold these rights,” Morrison said.

“We will work with our partners, we will play our part in shaping a better future for Australia and Australians, as well in our region and across the world,” Morrison said.

The Prime Minister discussed the contribution with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this morning. Pompeo today warned Iran that anyone who “touches,” supports or allows an Iranian tanker carrying crude oil to dock will risk US sanctions.

In July, UK forces seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar claiming it was violating sanctions on Syria. Iran, who denied the ship was bound for Syria but would not disclose its destination, then seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations.

Oil tanker, Middle East, Photo: Twitter

On June 13, two oil tankers, Japanese Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian Front Altair, were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz while in the Gulf of Oman, sustaining fire damage. The US blamed Iran and its Revolutionary Guard Corps for the attacks. Saudi Arabia and the UK backed the US claim.

A month earlier four commercial ships – two Saudi Arabian registered oil tankers, a Norwegian registered oil tanker, and an Emirati registered bunkering ship – were damaged in the Gulf of Oman in UAE waters. The UAE said it was acts of sabotage and the US accused the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of being “directly responsible” for the attacks.