Regarding the Jan. 30 article “Asia’s high stake in Persian Gulf Stability“: In writing about the Jan. 6 Strait of Hormuz incident, Michael Richardson states that “challenges to the right of unimpeded transit passage by warships . . . are inherently dangerous.” While that is true, the fault lies with the U.S. hypocrisy of claiming and provocatively pursuing transit passage through the strait while refusing to ratify the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and then crying “foul” when challenged.
Iran’s position is that non-state parties to the convention cannot avail themselves of the transit passage regime. Many other countries who view the convention as a “package deal” would agree. In Iran’s view, the U.S. vessels are in innocent passage in its territorial waters that can be suspended if the vessels undertake activities that threaten the peace, good order or security of Iran. If the United States had ratified the convention, either country could file a complaint with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and have the dispute adjudicated.
Meanwhile, not wanting to have a violent confrontation by actually denying passage to a non-state party and requiring its vessels to leave Iran’s territorial sea, Iran has apparently chosen to simply identify such vessels under regulations enacted under its innocent passage regime.
But U.S. Navy vessels consider this harassment or even an effort to “hamper” the navy’s claimed transit passage through the strait. So far, superior “might makes right.” The U.S. actions are indeed provocative and dangerous.