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Iranian seizure of oil tanker could spell disaster for China

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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A Chinese-owned oil tanker headed to Houston, Texas was captured in the Gulf of Oman on April 27 by masked Iranian navy commandos. Iranian state media claimed they seized the Turkish-managed tanker because it had run into another Iranian vessel, but there was no evidence to support that claim. The commandos descended by ropes from an overhead helicopter, landing on the deck of the tanker chartered by oil giant Chevron.

This isn’t the first time an oil tanker has been targeted in the region. The U.S. blamed a November 2022 attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman on an Iranian-made drone.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan explains why China may have the most to lose if the world’s shipping industry becomes more vulnerable.

Excerpted from Peter’s April 28 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

The Iranians have seized the Advantage Sweet, a Turkish-owned [sic] oil tanker carrying roughly 800,000 barrels of crude. The press release (or should I say ‘slap on the wrist’) issued by the U.S. Navy should have the Chinese very concerned about their supply lines.

Since World War II, the U.S. has patrolled the sea lanes and enabled the safe flow of international resources and products. However, this incident is just another indication that the U.S. is slowly stepping away from its commitment to the maritime order of protecting the high seas.

While the U.S. can just shut down its international energy trade and operate with its neighbors in North America, places like China have much more at stake. Since China falls at the end of a very long supply chain, any disruptions could spell disaster for the Chinese economy; that’s only one of many issues they face.

Everyone, Peter Zeihan coming to you from Colorado it is the 27th of April, we will be seeing this the morning of the 28th. The news that just came out is that the Iranians have snagged another tanker vessel called the Advantage suite, which is a Suez Max oil tanker, which means it probably is carrying about 800,000 barrels of crude it is owned by a Turkish company and is registered in the Marshall Islands. The US Navy has issued a press release basically saying bad Iran very, very bad Iran. And that’s it. This is your periodic reminder, then when it comes to international energy markets, the US just doesn’t care anymore. And if somebody wants to deal with Iran seizing tankers, then they will have to do it without the United States. This is a big change, of course, in most people’s perceptions, especially compared to the policy sets that we have seen in the United States for the last several decades.

But remember why those policy sets have existed. It’s not that the United States imports a lot of oil from the Middle East. It doesn’t it really never has, but its allies do.

And the entire basis of the American post world war two global environment was that we will fight wars to protect resource flows and product flows, so that you will sublimate your military needs to us, basically, we will fight your economic war, so you don’t have to. And that gives us a free hand and control of your militaries in case of a confrontation with the Soviet Union. The Russians may be coming back in a big way, but they are not the Soviets, and they do not have a global position. And so the United States bit by bit under Obama, under a Biden, and Trump have all basically steadily reduced the American commitment to the maritime order that allows global trade and global energy markets to work. And so this advantage sweet this tanker that’s been gone, the US really doesn’t care. But if you’re China, this is a problem because the entire existence of the Chinese economy and its strategic position is based on the idea that the United States no matter what else happens, no matter what the Chinese do, no matter how much military action, China carries out, that the Americans will still uphold civilian freedom of the seas. And as we’ve seen today, again, the US has no interest in that anymore. So it next time, we do get a meaningful interruption to international energy flows. The United States basically closes its borders to energy trade, it’s self sufficient within North America and the Chinese are at the very end of a very long supply line that they have no hope of protecting. And that means they’ll de industrialize. And that means it’s the end of China’s unified and nation state. And of course, if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that that’s only one of the many reasons why the Chinese are going to end this decade. All right, that’s it for me. Till next time.

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