Economic sanctions placed on Iran by the United States and European Union and gradually tightened over the last year have begun to strain Iran; the country’s currency has tumbled as oil production has hit its lowest point in 23 years. So Iranian leaders, desperate to prop up oil revenues, are considering a plan proposed by the ruthless leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard: purposefully cause a massive oil spill in the Strait of Hormuz.
According to Der Spiegel, which obtained a copy of General Mohammed Ali Jafari’s top-secret plan, the goal of operation “Murky Waters” would be to cause a big enough environmental disaster to close the Strait to shipping, thereby cutting off Western countries from oil. At the same time, Jafari presumes that not only will the cleanup effort drag Western countries in to clean up after Iran (basically a “taste it” move on a massive scale), it will also require the Iranian embargo to be lifted temporarily.
From Der Spiegel:
Jafari’s plan allegedly describes in detail how a massive environmental catastrophe could be created if, for example, the Iranians were to steer one of these supertankers onto a rock. During the 1991 Gulf War, then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had millions of barrels of oil dumped into the Gulf. The fishing industry in Gulf countries was shut down for months, and the ecological damage was felt for years to come. In 1994 and 1998, accidental oil spills threatened desalination plants in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, thereby imperiling fresh water supplies for the two countries.
According to the Pasdaran leadership, if there were a tanker disaster today, the International Compensation Fund for Oil Pollution Damage would have to step in financially. But a decontamination effort would only be possible with the technical assistance of Iranian authorities, which would require lifting the embargo, at least temporarily. Iranian oil companies, some owned by members of the Pasdaran, could even benefit from the cleanup program. Jafari’s plan also foresees the Iranian people rallying around the government in such a situation, pushing Tehran’s failing economic policy into the background.
The “Murky Water” sabotage plan is currently thought to be in the hands of religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He makes the final decisions.
As Reuters notes, Der Spiegel‘s report has yet to be confirmed. And while proposing sabotage on an epic scale might be plausible from Jafari, who Spiegel described as “a man who brings together all the fears of the West,” it’s another thing altogether to put the plan into action. Let’s also not ignore that poisoning one of the world’s most important bodies of water is a move that Iran could never take back, and as such is one of sheer desperation. But if any Western leaders are wondering if Iranian embargoes are working, confirmation that “Murky Waters” is on the table would be proof enough.
Image via AP
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