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Saudi Arabia Table of Contents

Saudi Arabia

Naval Warfare in the Persian Gulf, 1987

The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 brought enormous cost in lives and material destruction. For a time, however, the war involved only the two belligerents and did not present a direct military threat to Saudi Arabia. The triumph of the radical Shia (see Glossary) movement in Iran and the Iranian Islamic Revolution under Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini had raised alarm throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and the Persian Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia supported the Iraqi war effort with money and supplies. By 1986 the focus of the war had shifted to the waters of the gulf, where Iran's naval superiority enabled it to block shipping intended for Iraq and the export of Iraqi oil. Iran's naval attacks against tankers and its minelaying reached a peak in 1987. Forty attacks were mounted against shipping to and from Saudi Arabia, although oil movements were not seriously affected. The four minesweepers of the Saudi navy contributed to the international effort to locate and clear Iranian mines from the gulf. In cooperation with the United States, the fleet of five Saudi AWACS aircraft carried out surveillance of air traffic over the gulf. Two Iranian aircraft were shot down for violating Saudi air space. In October 1987, a fleet of missile-armed Iranian speedboats was observed moving toward As Saffaniyah, a major Saudi oil field, which had a processing complex at Ras al Khafji near the border with Kuwait. When Saudi ships and aircraft as well as ships of the United States Navy moved quickly to intercept the force, the Iranian ships turned away.

Data as of December 1992