U. S. Reflagging of Kuwaiti Tankers
ELIZABETH GAMLEN AND PAUL ROGERS
In 1986-87 the Kuwaiti government approached members of the UN Security Council with requests for help in protecting its tankers from attacks in the Persian Gulf. This request led to a major expansion in the gulf of naval warships belonging to outside powers and substantially increased the level of hostilities between Iran and the United States. We provide an outline of the so-called Tanker War, including a consideration of its legal inference and its impact on exports from the Persian Gulf region. We study the reasons for Kuwait's request and the United States agreement to the request. We consider the consequences in terms of international reaction and escalation of conflict in the Persian Gulf Finally, we propose some implications of this U. S. intervention.
After the outbreak of the war, Iran destroyed two oil terminals near Faw, instituted a naval blockade, and effectively closed off all Iraqi access to the sea. Consequently, Iraq had to rely on overland pipelines to export its oil and on friendly nations, notably Kuwait, to transship war materials. 1 After these moves by Iran, both Iranian and Iraqi maritime military action was limited almost entirely to attacks on merchant vessels and other nonbelligerent shipping. Until the first phase of the Tanker War was initiated in earnest in February 1984, such attacks were infrequent and were perpetrated solely by Iraq. After 1984, Iraq appeared to have twin goals: to tempt Iran into trying to close the Straits of Hormuz and thus interrupt the West's supply of oil and pre-