Iran, Britain and the United States are engaged in a struggle for control over the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf.
A fifth of the world’s daily oil supply moves through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, offshore of Iran.
Given the history of oil and war in hot spots from Iraq to Libya to Sudan, many wonder whether the situation can be defused.
Yet the relationship between oil and war is actually quite complicated — and much of the time, oil disputes are resolved peacefully.
The more dangerous disputes are those where tensions over oil exacerbate other factors on the road to war.
On Friday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized a British-flagged tanker called the Stena Impero.
Iran says it halted the ship because of regulatory violations, but the British government is “deeply concerned.”
Iran’s actions come in the wake of deepening tensions, which started with President Trump’s decision to unilaterally abandon the nuclear deal negotiated with Tehran by the Obama administration (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA).
In April, the United States imposed new sanctions, setting off an escalating spiral of actions. Many experts viewed the U.S. move as foolish.
A series of attacks on oil tankers began in May. Iran denies responsibility for those attacks.
In July, the British navy seized an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, and the United Kingdom views last week’s tanker seizure by Iran as a reply to that event.
Iran and the United States also have destroyed each other’s drones in the area. The United States accuses Iran of shooting down its drone over international wars, but Iran
argues that the drone was violating Iran’s territorial airspace.
Now the United States is deploying troops and Patriot missiles in Saudi Arabia.
This could be in response to oil infrastructure vulnerabilities, though experts view that type of missile attack as unlikely to work.
More ominously, many observers wonder whether war is coming.