The Strait of Hormuz: al-Qaeda's Newest Jihad Zone?

The Strait of Hormuz:

al-Qaeda's Newest Jihad Zone?

by Malcolm Nance

Download the Full Article: The Strait of Hormuz: al-Qaeda's Newest Jihad Zone?

After the July 28 explosion alongside the Japanese oil tanker M. Star in the Strait of Hormuz initial speculation was that it had struck a derelict sea mine from the 1991 Iraq war, encountered a rogue wave from an earthquake in Iran or had a collision with a whale or submarine. Pundits and even some counter-terror observers, particularly those in the Gulf States, spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to explain it away with any possibility except the most obvious one - terrorism. That can no longer be ignored.

When news of the incident broke caution was called for in the region as to assigning a specific cause and terrorism was specifically rejected as likely.

Here in the UAE, skepticism is the preferred form of denial and critics of the suicide boat theory are being given strong voice. The very mention of the possibility of terrorism originating in or near the United Arab Emirates is met with hushes and alternative explanations, hence the whale, wave and submarine theories. The "T" word (Terrorism) is not welcome in public or political discourse. Some political pundits claim that conventional war with Iran is a greater threat to the Strait. That may be true solely in relation to Iran's nuclear ambitions, but a wave of successful al-Qaeda suicide attacks could destabilize the markets in a way that rising tensions with Iran cannot.

Download the Full Article: The Strait of Hormuz: al-Qaeda's Newest Jihad Zone?

Malcolm W. Nance is a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government's Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies. A 20-year veteran of the US intelligence community's Combating Terrorism program and a six year veteran of the Global War on Terrorism he has extensive field and combat experience as an field intelligence collections operator, an Arabic speaking interrogator and a master Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) instructor.

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Doug, could you elaborate on your statement that it all adds up? No one can say with any certainty what happened. The best explanation is, it was the result from a previous laid floating mine by Iran (possibly from as far back as the Iran-Iraq war).

Iran is probably he biggest threat to the Straight of Hormuz at the moment than al-Qaeda is.

Events such as this explosion are not called terrorism by public officials who believe that by ignoring the problem, by "lying low," it will just go away. Non-identification and non-response, however, can just embolden the terrorist.

Straits of Hormuz? Explosion next to an oil tanker? A significant amount of the world's oil flows through the straits? It all adds up.

Excellent paper. I would also like to add a few more thoughts to the discussion.
Incidents like this will only highlight how important it is for ships to have security on their boats. There is no reason for a boat to come this close to a tanker, and a trained and well armed security team could have easily dealt with this problem.
To depend upon navies to stop all attacks throughout the world against commercial shipping is impossible. The only way they could do it, is to post security on every tanker or private vessel of importance, and on all of the routes throughout the world. As it stands now, all of these expensive navies that the world is throwing at the piracy problem off the coast of Somalia is unsustainable and the results are mixed. The question to ask is if aircraft carriers, destroyers, jets, and all the technology of the world versus a small motorboat with a couple of guys armed with AK's and RPG's a cost effective means of combating piracy?
I say use the navies as quick reaction forces, and tell the commercial shipping industry to put armed security professionals on the boats. Have these ships pay for those services, because security on the boat is the best and smartest defense against this stuff.
Another area that I look at with Al Qaeda is the concept of jihadist corsairs or Qursaans. AQ could easily fire up a market in which jihadists would be paid to attack merchant ships. Or tell them to capture ships for the hostages and ransom money. Or use those captured ships for larger attacks or clogging up the straits. For examples of how privateer markets expand and evolve, just check out today's Somali pirates or our early American privateers. It is a strategy that works, and if AQ is wanting to create economic instability, this would be a way to do it.

Might there not be another simpler explanation: that being the incident was caused by pirates, or perhaps a handful of Revolutionary Guards Navy personnel acting on their own?