(LinkAsia: January 27, 2012)
The European Union is increasing the pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program. It’s joining the US and the UK in the latest round of sanctions, which includes an embargo on Iranian oil. Japanese broadcaster NHK has our top story.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: January 23, 2012
The EU ministers made their decision at a meeting in Brussels. Their sanctions came in line with similar measures that were approved last month in the United States. The ministers agreed to freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank. They want to cut off the main source of revenue for the government. The EU is the second-largest importer of Iranian oil. It accounts for nearly 20 percent of the total. Sources close to the talks say the ministers are focusing on how Iran will react to the decision, including the possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz. The strait is the only waterway to the open ocean for many areas around the Persian Gulf. NHK World’s Go Sawahata has just been there. He reports that it’s still busy, at least for now.
Go Sawahata (Reporter):
I reached the Strait of Hormuz by sailing up the coast of Oman. The Persian Gulf was busy with oil tankers from all over the world. Oman has military facilities near the Strait of Hormuz. Omani boats were on patrol. Iran conducted huge naval exercises in the area late last month. Iran has also just launched its latest missiles in a show of its military clout. The United States has deployed a second aircraft carrier in the area. Countries along the gulf have built up their military forces in case of tension with Iran. The United Arab Emirates signed a contract last month to buy the latest US missile interceptors. Saudi Arabia signed a deal to buy more F-15 fighters from the United States.
Theodore Karasik (Institute of Near East and Gulf Military Analysis):
They’re increasingly buying more arms, as well as their recent experience in Libya, has taught them how to use air power effectively. So this is a nice combination of attributes to face off against Iran.
The big question is how Gulf States will export their oil if the Strait of Hormuz is closed. The UAE is building a pipeline to bypass the strait. But the pipeline won’t be finished for at least six months.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan (UAE Foreign Minister):
I’ll do everything I can to keep oil production going.
Ninety percent of Japan’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. Japanese businesses are keeping a close eye on developments. This Japanese company is involved with production of oil in the UAE for export to Japan. Even if the Strait of Hormuz stays open, any more military tension will hit the company’s business.
Katsujiro Kida (Japan Oil Development):
Closure of the strait would create a situation beyond any company’s control. An accidental incident could trigger something that nobody wants to happen.
Tension between the West and Iran over Iranian nuclear program is at a critical level. There are fears of a regional war. The fate of the central artery for global oil transport is at stake.