A bold security approach for the Strait of Hormuz

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ONE of the greatest developing threats to the security of the UK and the international community is the ongoing destabilization of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran. This is a threat which requires a united, robust and proportionate response from NATO.

As the world’s most important oil chokepoint, these actions in the Strait of Hormuz cannot continue. Through this narrow waterway, 21 million barrels of seaborne oil passed every day in 2018, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That is around one-third of total global seaborne oil in that year, meaning that one- fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has made several threats to freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. In 2018, Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Since May 2019, Iran has taken hostile action against four oil tankers, seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero and shot down an American drone.

Freedom of navigation through this vital waterway is a matter of significant strategic importance for the global economy and the international community. That is why the responsibility of protecting freedom of navigation should fall proportionately on all NATO member states with naval capabilities. Sadly, certain member states have consistently failed to match the two percent of GDP target that NATO sets for defense spending. In fact, only six of the European member states of NATO met the 2 percent target in 2018, including Estonia, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK.

The UK has demonstrated its commitment to providing security in the region by deploying the HMS Duncan, a Type 45 Destroyer, to take over from the HMS Montrose to secure safe passage through the Strait of Hormuz for British-flagged ships. The Royal Navy is also working alongside the US Navy to protect merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz as part of a new maritime security mission.

Both the UK and the US are encouraging others to join them in tackling this international problem.

In addition, Britain maintains a naval base in Bahrain. The Royal Navy’s presence in Bahrain has two components, the UK Maritime Component Command and the UK Naval Support Facility. The UKMCC has approximately 10 military personnel deployed, while the UKNSF has approximately 549 military personnel and a running cost of £10.5m to the British taxpayer in 2018/19.

It is particularly disappointing to see that Germany has rejected calls to join the US-led naval mission. This passive attitude toward the stability of the region highlights the weakness of the stance toward Iran adopted by our European partners. How can we have confidence in the EU to be a reliable security partner when they choose not to contribute toward the protection of one of the most important waterways in the world?

Despite the lack of action from European partners, the UK does not have to act alone. I would urge our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to push key NATO member states in Europe to shoulder their fair share of the burden, not only when it comes to securing the Strait of Hormuz but also in meeting NATO’s 2 percent target.

It is time for NATO to show a united front and send the strongest possible signal to Tehran that their belligerent behavior will no longer be tolerated. The UK and our NATO allies can meet this challenge so long as we are ready and willing to exercise and project military force around the world, starting with the Strait of Hormuz.

— The author is a Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham in Shropshire, England. Follow him on Twitter: @DKShrewsbury


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