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Getting the Strait of Hormuz straight: an FAQ

Iran has caused a stir with its threat this week to close down the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions were imposed on Iranian oil exports. Here’s why this small body of water generates so much world attention.

- Staff Writer

2. Why is the waterway so critical to the international community?

Ninety percent of the Persian Gulf’s oil shipments pass through the Strait of Hormuz, the only waterway connecting the gulf to larger bodies of water. It’s a long trip from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea – through the Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, and Suez Canal – but if we’re speaking practically, it’s the only route available. Alternative routes could carry only a small percentage of the amount of oil that passes through the Strait.

Twenty percent of the worldwide demand for oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz every day, mostly through a four-mile-wide channel designated the official shipping channel, according to a report on the waterway from Foreign Policy magazine.

As The Christian Science Monitor notes, oil prices would skyrocket if the waterway was shut down – a problem at any time, but particularly now with the United States’ economic recovery so fragile and many European economies teetering on the brink of collapse.


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