National Geographic : 1988 May
SIn dan\ Oca Oceane MORE THAN 40 percent of world oil imports stem from the gulf Western Europe andJapan are the major consumers, relying on tanker shipments from 4 the five countries shown. The securil of .thegulf is *''*' U'S*.' . I deemed essential to the United States and its allies. A*,TSUDTA BJECTION the 120-mile-long Shatt al Arab, Iran, which is overwhelmingly subject of a long-standing border Shiite. Shah Mohammd Reza dispute between Iran and Iraq, Pahlavi was ousted, and the ne antagonists with deep-seated religious leadership installed ;** differences. 'Islamic law. The war began when ETROLEUM, religious fervor, The Arab nation of Iraq has Iraq invaded its troubled neigh and tangled international been controlled by the socialist bor in September 1980, striking r elations have made a deady Baath Party since a coup in 1968. refineriesad a l-l brw in the Persia ulf. A web The population includes members terminal o:n Kharg Isi a of often disputed boundaries over- of Islam's two major branches: 35 responded in October 1y takin lies the water (foldout, left). percent are Sunnis and 63 percent Iraq'sgulf il terminals and pr Two-thirds of the oil exported by Shiites. Sunnis, about 85 percent enting Iraqi tanker shipments gulf countries passes through the of the world's Muslims, hod tht through the gulf. narrow Strait of Hormuz. Pipelines after the death of Muhammad The U. S. was jolted in May carry most of the remainder to leadership passed to caliphs elect- 1987, when an Iraqi jet accident ports on the Mediterranean and ed from the Prophet's tribe. Shi- tally fired upon the frigate U.S.S. Red Seas (inset). Closing the strait, ites, the largest minority, believe Stark in the gulf, killing 37 crew which Iran has threatened, would that religious authority is invested men. In July the U. S. began es erode the world's current oil only in descendants of Muham- corting Kuwaiti oil tankers sailing surplus, increasing prices-and mad's son-in-law, Ali, who is under the U. S. flag. Though international tensions. buried in An Najaf, Iraq. the causes of the war are deeply Another strategic waterway Most Iranians are not Arabs, embedded in religin, nationalism, lies n 550 miles away at the hed but Indo-Europeans who speak and ecoomics, the United Nations of the gulf. There the Tigris and the Persian language. In 1979 and others continue attempts to Euphrates Rivers empty into religious fanaticism washed over negotiate a settlement.