Gulfs of Meaning

Northrup Grumman

A new landscape of the waters’ defense must have prompted the United States to believe that the increasingly powerful surveillance of the drone that Northrup Grumman actually monitored as.a “Global Hawk,” flying at roughly the altitude wide-angle cameras photographed surveillance imagery for the U.S. Army in World War II, promised to offer the accuracy of littoral surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz to map Iranian bases near the Strait of Hormuz in order to make its quite hefty 200 million dollar price-tag worthwhile. Northrop Grumman even shamelessly used the prospect of war with the Islamic Republic of Iran to sell it to the U.S. Government in 2008–advising the Pentagon that the “future security environment” and the role that Global Hawk drone might play in its sales pitch. the all too eery echoes that we see of the Universal Transverse Mercator projection used in GPS in the scenario of a new landscape of military surveillance hat the Global Hawk drones promised give us considerable pause. For the aerospace industry offered a promise of total surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz–beyond current capacities of SIGINT surveillance.

The shores of the Strait of Hormuz might be mapped in multiple ways, and placed in radically different global and local contexts. But the new breadth of promised surveillance expanded abilities of surveillance to bet questions of territoriality and the nternational status of waters a question of increased tensions, as have in fact gained considerable salience in recent weeks What appears a navigational course has been transformed, in an era when territoriality is designed by points, rather than either landscapes or terrain, to an increasingly serious a quandary for measuring locations along a nautical map, or in reference to a mainland. For the question of incursion in territoriality–as the high-grade U.S. Army drone that was shot down in Iranian airspace–is not so evident from the Gulf waters, or the landscape over which it flew.

The new landscape of the waters must have prompted the United States to believe that the increasingly powerful surveillance of the drone. The promise for what seemed total coverage of the Strait of Hormuz in its entirety beside Iranian waters–so that the promise of con erase in the Gulf transcended earlier abilities of imagining control over the waters of the Strait of Hormuz so that they lay in quite dangerously close conflict with Iranian sovereignty, in no small part because of the significantly larger coverage the drones created around Hormuz.

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Northrup Grumman

What ensued was almost a war, but was a true war of maps, with each side asserting the correct interpretation of the map of the drone’s course, and, in effect, the superiority of their mapping competencies and ability to read the consequences of the new nature of national maps, which define the coextensiveness of national space. To be sure, the United States has long used the air power of its Navy to extend its abilities to patrol the airspace of the Strait on grounds of upholding access to its international waters in a narrow sea-passage through with millions of barrels of oil flow daily from the Persian Gulf states–

–and U.S. escort ships have long accompanied Kuwaiti tankers bearing oil as they trailed through the turbulent waters of the Strait inn the late 1980s and fall of 1987. But the increasing extent of using airpower to assert the internationality of navigation in the Gulf have also long appeared intervening in regional politics and national sovereignty, to the eyes of the state of Iran, including the firing of warnings to “warn off” small ships and “unidentified boats” in the past, in ways that have threatened to expand into military confrontations of almost global proportions, making the Strait a bit of an epicenter of the guarding of offshore oil installations, oil shipping tankers that fly national flags of which they technically remain under the control, and the guarding of what are designated “international shipping lanes” by deploying the naval fleet, military servicemen and surface-to-air Hawk missiles during the Reagan years as it to prepare for skirmishes to defend reflagged ships and redefined “vital national interests” that so tarnished America’s national image and credibility of its aims in preserving the “free flow of oil” from the Persian Gulf across the Strait–where some of Saudi Arabia’s tankers had earlier been attacked, and two international tankers seem to have been attacked later by still unidentified ‘sovereign powers’, who were quickly identified by the United State government as Iranian forces.

Washington appeared particularly intent on maintaining an illusion of control over the Gulf and of transit of tankers piloting through the Strait’s narrow “international waters,” as if imposing its own map of the waters on the world. For U.S. Army maps seemed committed to preserving the conceit that the United States would continue to protect international waters remaining “open to all”–even though the narrowly defined Strait was, while the sole site of transit for an incredible number of barrels of oil, if not an ‘artery’ of the global oil trade. The flow of oil in the narrow waterway between Iran and Oman linked petroleum extraction to truly global markets–in the United States and Americas, Europe, Asian Pacific; of seaborne crude and condensate, a third of oil on global markets passes through the Strait–making its small site vital to global oil markets, and its mapping in an authoritative manner a rather incredible manner of threading the needle to ensure the fungibility of global energy markets.

Shipping Lanes in Strait of Hormuz

The “red line” was not defined by Iran, in other words, or a gloss on the long-accepted maps of what constituted the “air defense identification zone” that Americans long knew that Iran demanded to be respected. The “ADIZ” detailed in this map as a clear line in the water passes through nautical coordinates, but also comes quite close to intersecting with the “shipping lanes” that were open in the Strait, and cuts close to the islands off of Oman’s shore, and far outside the territorial waters of Iran. The special qualifications of the fancy hardware that Northrup-Grumman had perhaps specially designed for the U.S. military as it sought to navigate this particularly delicate question of mapping, where incursions on national airspace that was claimed as sovereign must not be perceived–as a “Global Hawk” that flew above all other birds–and the ability to take accurate surveillance imagery at a height of 20,000 meters—seemed not be detected in the over 20,000 flight hours that the RQ4 Global Hawk stationed in Al Dharfa Airbase had already logged. The new confidence

The long-defined “sea lanes” of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz may shift–and with it control over the only point of access to ship oil from Persaian Gulf states–for the very reason that the sanctions that the United States is applying with intensified pressure on Iran may legally permit the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to claims of Iranian officials who cite the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Law of the Sea as justifying Iran’s right to suspend passage of tankers from the Strait of Hormuz for those countries who have imposed sanctions against the Iranian oil and gas imports and exports. 

1 Comment

Filed under aerial bombardment, globalization, Middle East, military intelligence, Persian Gulf

One response to “Gulfs of Meaning

  1. David Frick

    I love all this. There are map people and non-map people.

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