Oman sees biggest Gulf clash risk in Strait of Hormuz

The risk of a military confrontation is higher in the Strait of Hormuz than anywhere else in the Gulf region, Oman’s foreign minister said, due in part to the growing number of military vessels from different countries that are guarding it.

The waterway between Iran and Oman – 33 km (21 miles) wide at its narrowest point – is the conduit for some 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea.

Friction between Iran and the West had led several nations to send task forces to guard shipping there, and Washington has blamed Tehran for attacks on international merchant vessels in or near the area, something Tehran denies.

“There are a lot of military ships in the Hormuz (area) and our concern is there could be a mistake,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said late on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference.

That would make that area the riskiest flashpoint in the Gulf over the coming months, he added.

Iran cannot legally close the waterway unilaterally because part of it is in Omani territorial waters. However, ships that sail it pass through Iranian waters, which are under the responsibility of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy.