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American B-1B bomber flies over Mideast amid Iran tensions

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    8th Nov, 2021

Context

The US Air Force flew a B-1B strategic bomber over key maritime chokepoints in the Mideast with allies including Israel amid ongoing tensions with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters.

Important Locations

  • The B-1B Lancer bomber flew over the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil traded passes.
  • It also flew over the Red Sea, its narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait and Egypt’s Suez Canal.
  • The Strait of Hormuz has been the scene of attacks on shipping blamed on Iran in recent years, while the Red Sea has seen similar assaults amid an ongoing shadow war between Tehran and Israel.

Strait of Homruz

  • The Strait of Hormuzis a narrow channel, approximately 30 miles wide at the narrowest point, between the Omani Musandam Peninsula and Iran.
  • Shaped like an inverted V, it connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman. The Strait is deep and relatively free of maritime hazards.
  • Its depth is greatest near the Musandam Peninsula and tapers as you move north toward the Iranian shore.
  • It’s almost 100 miles (161 kilometers) long and 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, with the shipping lanes in each direction just two miles wide.
  • Its shallow depth makes ships vulnerable to mines, and the proximity to land — Iran, in particular — leaves large tankers open to attack from shore-based missiles or interception by patrol boats and helicopters.

Persian Gulf

  • The Strait contains eight major islands, seven of which are controlled by Iran. 
  • Iran and the United Arab Emirates disagree as to the ownership of the strategically located Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb islands.
  • Nonetheless, Iran has maintained a military presence on these islands since the 1970s.
  • Additionally, Iran's navy has good access to open sea from bases at Bandar Abbas, Bushehr, and Chah Bahar.
  • The de facto Iranian control of these islands certainly strengthens Iranian influence in the waters of the Strait.

Gulf of Oman

  • Gulf of Oman, northwest arm of the Arabian Sea, between the eastern portion (Oman) of the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest and Iran to the north.
  • The gulf is 200 miles (320 km) wide between Cape al-?add in Oman and Gw?dar Bay on the Pakistan–Iran border.
  • It is 350 miles (560 km) long and connects with the Persian Gulf to the northwest through the Strait of Hormuz
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