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A Case Study of U.S. Reflagging Operations During the Iran-Iraq War

by Christian Heller


On May 29, 1987 President Ronald Reagan addressed the United States to begin the largest U.S. Naval operation since World War II (WWII). Years of indiscriminate mining and attacks on merchant shipping had turned the Persian Gulf into an international warzone. He spoke in terms familiar to any president since WWII by citing freedom of navigation and opposition to the Soviet Union.i His words marked a decision to reflag eleven Kuwaiti oil tankers and begin military naval escorts through the Persian Gulf. Operation Earnest Will is largely forgotten in the common historical mind but serves as a prime case study of the complex legalities that apply to U.S. naval operations. Merchant vessels have changed their registration from country to country for hundreds of years and the U.S. Coast Guard administers numerous requests every year. The decision by the Reagan administration, however, was the first bulk reflagging in U.S. history and its intention, rather than being for convenience or economic purposes, was almost entirely geo-political. Despite staunch domestic and legal opposition, the operation progressed Washington’s desires for greater regional influence in the Persian Gulf, as well as its international desires to counter the Soviet Union’s advances into the Middle East.

The decision to reflag the tankers faced two major legal questions. First, domestic opposition emerged—particularly in Congress—due to concerns about the administration’s actions in the Middle East in light of the War Powers Act.1 Second, the legality of the reflagging operation under international law was in question. The simple question, “Was it legal?” remains unsolved, but for the purposes of advancing U.S. foreign policy and demonstrating the capabilities of the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf the decision was a major success for the administration. The incident illustrates how American military and political leaders were able to manipulate, work around, and ignore opposition from international and domestic audiences to create an international consensus for Persian Gulf naval operations which advanced U.S. foreign policy.

The Context of Re-flagging

By 1984 the Iran-Iraq war was four years old and continued to threaten American economic stability. The possibility of a new global recession from an oil disruption remained a foremost concern of the Reagan administration towards the conflict.2,3 From 1973 to 1974, during the Arab oil embargo, oil prices tripled in the U.S., unemployment rose by 3.5%, and inflation more than tripled to 11%.4 The subsequent recession of 1974-1975 was the worst since the Great Depression.5 Aftershock from the 1979 Iranian Revolution increased unemployment and inflation by 3% and 4% respectively.6 The net cost of oil imports to the OECD rose from $180 billion in 1979 to $254 billion in 1981.7

In 1980 Iraq invaded the new Shia theocracy with large-scale air raids and a ground invasion. Iranians rallied in defence of their country and by December Saddam Hussein was on the defensive. Following a failed Iranian attack in January 1981, both sides settled into the first long stalemate of the war. Through 1982 the war remained deadlocked and the combatants began mining the Persian Gulf in efforts to control harbours and shipping routes. Iraq warned the international community that it would mine Iranian ports and declared a shipping exclusion zone extending 65 kilometres north from Kharg Island, the primary Iranian oil terminal.

In 1984 Iraq escalated the conflict in the Gulf by expanding “The Tanker War”. Baghdad followed its initial attack with 53 additional strikes against Iranian vessels and oil facilities, while Iran responded with 19 attacks on Kuwaiti and Saudi vessels due to their support for Baghdad.8 Iran focused its attacks against Kuwaiti vessels primarily because the small nation was almost entirely dependent upon Gulf shipping to export its oil.

Tanker attacks against Kuwaiti and Saudi vessels continued to rise in 1985.9 In 1986, following numerous successful Iranian attacks, Iraq became desperate and escalated its attacks in the Gulf to try and slow down the Iranian assault. The number of annual attacks more than doubled that year and Iran began conducting night attacks utilizing its speedboat swarm-style tactics.10,11

In January of 1986 Iran escalated the situation further and antagonized U.S. policymakers directly by boarding a U.S. cargo ship. In response, the U.S. published a “Notice to Mariners” warning that surface vessels that did not establish radio communications with nearby U.S. warships would be subject to defensive measures.12 That failed to stem the attacks.  By the time the U.S. began its reflagging operations in 1987 the entire Persian Gulf found itself drawn into a state of war and the non-Communist world was at risk of losing its main oil supplies.

Kuwait, initially unresponsive to U.S. contingency planning efforts, was nearing a crisis by 1987. Despite declared neutrality, Kuwait maintained close financial and logistical ties to Iraq throughout the conflict. Its ports were “virtually turned over to the Iraqis” as the war continued.13  Kuwait’s support for Iraq brought it into the conflict and made it a target. Almost a dozen terrorist attacks by Kuwaiti Shi’a opposition groups, including an attempt on the Amir’s life in 1985, rattled the small sheikhdom’s leaders. After the United Nations and the Gulf Cooperation Council refused to act on its behalf, the Kuwaiti government made official requests to both the United States and the Soviet Union to protect its shipping. The initial request to the United States passed through the U.S. Coast Guard and was “handled as routine.”14 Kuwait accelerated the process by contacting the U.S. Embassy directly rather than waiting for a Coast Guard decision. In February, the Soviets agreed to the Kuwaiti request and a public statement was made by the Sheikhdom.15 This announcement forced the national security staff to inform President Reagan of the Soviet decision and focused the President’s attention on the Gulf.16 Though the U.S. was officially neutral, Washington had provided limited support to Iraq to include loans, intelligence, and diplomacy (for instance, ignoring Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in 1983).17 The administration now began refining various options to militarily intervene in a region which every administration since World War II had deemed vital to the United States in order to counter the Soviet encroachment.

Congressional Opposition

The Reagan administration believed that reflagging Kuwaiti tankers and introducing additional U.S. warships to the Gulf region did not constitute an act of war or warrant activation of the War Powers Act. Repeatedly, administration officials stated that the situation involved no “imminent involvement in hostilities” and asserted that since the convoy missions would only be used to deter Iranian aggression, Congressional oversight was unnecessary.18

Congress was not convinced by such pleas. Representative Robert Toricelli warned that America was, “on a collision course with the Iranian government.” 19 In May, prior to the reflagging operation, the USS Stark was struck by an Iraqi fighter jet and more than 30 American sailors lost their lives. Pictures of the damaged ship filled the front page of every paper in America and Congress faced pressure over the Persian Gulf mission. In June, Senator Claiborne Pell proposed a bill to prohibit the reflagging that was eventually voted down.20. In an effort to garner support, President Reagan met with numerous Senators in both individual and group sessions, including opposition Democrats. Some Senators were willing to publicly support the operation but required convincing as to why American warships would escort and defend Kuwaiti merchant vessels. They insisted that America remain neutral in the conflict and worried that since Kuwait was a de facto combatant, Iran would regard America’s warships as lawful targets.21 The same day, the Senate Foreign Relations committee debated two resolutions opposing the administration’s actions: one to delay the reflagging by twelve months and a second that would invoke the War Powers Act and require congressional oversight of the mission.22

The administration succeeded in its efforts to defeat the bill to prevent the reflagging of Kuwaiti vessels. The House passed a non-binding resolution requesting a delay in military action, but three attempts to pass a similar resolution in the Senate failed.23 However, the Senate achieved its desire for oversight. They voted 91-5 to require the executive to provide reports on security in the Gulf before reflagging the Kuwaiti tankers.24 To alleviate fears about the operation, the President and his closest advisors conducted additional private discussions with Congressional leaders, reassuring them of open communication between the executive and the legislative branches as well as the Navy’s preparedness for the mission.25

Despite votes for oversight and the President’s reassurance, Congress was not briefed on the operation until March and April, after the President had already approved the measure and inspections of the Kuwaiti tankers were underway with Coast Guard personnel to ensure the vessels met U.S. shipping standards.26 To gain popular support, White House officials portrayed the decision to reflag as one to prevent an expansion of Soviet influence. At a summit meeting of G-7 country leaders in June 1987, President Reagan emphasized the “skillfull [sic] campaign” Moscow was undertaking in the Gulf to counter the interests and strategic concerns of the West.27 The public relations campaign succeeded and the operation continued.

National and International Legality

The decision to reflag eleven Kuwaiti tankers under the U.S. flag sparked numerous arguments about its legality. From 1980 to 1987, prior to the reflagging, some 50 vessels of other nationalities had been through U.S. Coast Guard protocols. Never had 11 been reflagged at once, though, and none had involved such overtly political objectives as the arrangement with the Kuwait. Narrowly defined, the reflagging operation was straightforward: “Reflagging the tankers changed the nationality of the vessels from Kuwait to United States, entitling the tankers to United States naval protection.”28 The parties involved understood the terms of the agreement in different ways, and disagreements over the actual commitment continued throughout the war. This reflagging operation differed from others that took place in earlier years of the war. Generally, economic considerations drove a vessel owner’s decision to request reflagging. However, “the Kuwaiti request arose from the immediate political and strategic concern of thwarting further Iranian attacks on its vessels.”29 This difference raised multiple legal issues.

The legal requirement accepted by the international legal community as pertaining to reflagging a vessel is the term “genuine link.30 In other words, the nation taking responsibility for the reflagged vessels must prove that a genuine link exists between the vessel and its operators and the nation reflagging it. Fortunately for the United States, there was no accepted international definition for the term, and the vagueness allowed Washington to benefit from the situation. The international maritime laws governing issues such as the genuine link were established by three international conventions: the 1958 Convention of the High Seas, the 1982 Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the 1986 United Nations Conference on Conditions for Registration of Ships. The United States was only a party to the 1958 legislation which also defines the genuine link in the loosest term.31 Meeting that standard only requires executing, “the authority to regulate the administrative, technical, and social matters of the vessels.”32 No specific regulations existed with regards to the process by which a merchant vessel could apply to change its national origin in order to garner military protection from a different state in a time of war. The minimal reflagging conditions listed previously only applied for a transfer of flag in times of peace.33 The aim of the document was to facilitate the sale of a ship from one merchant to another, not to facilitate the protection of neutral vessels in wartime. Thus, a legal gap existed which the U.S. could exploit to justify its naval operation.

U.S. legal requirements governing reflagging are defined in Title 46, Chapter 121 of the U.S. Federal Code. They are three: first, that a vessel be properly constructed and inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard; second, that it be crewed by an adequate number of United States citizens in its crew and officers; and third, that it be documented as owned by a United States citizen. To meet these requirements the Coast Guard conducted inspections in Kuwait while the Department of Defense requested single year waivers for meeting U.S. safety requirements (which were stricter than international safety requirements). Abraham Sofaer, the State Department legal adviser, emphasized in Congressional testimony that the tankers “generally” meet U.S. standards and waivers were granted only when U.S. specifications exceeded the requirements established by international law.34 Ownership requirements were met by partnering with Chesapeake Shipping, Inc., located in Delaware.35 Despite these efforts, some in the legal community remained convinced that the administration did not meet the “genuine link” standards established by international law. As the Duke Law Journal elaborated: “there is very little about the tanker that is American. Neither their true owners, their management, nor their crew are by majority United States citizens.”36 The link between the U.S. and the tankers was “contrived” and some in Congress worked hard but failed to oppose the action legally.37

The administration argued that it was primarily up to the state taking on responsibility for the vessels to define the legal requirements for reflagging, and that the requirements could differ depending on the situations. In June of 1987, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Michael Armacost laid out the administration’s legal argument: “U.S.-flag ships have received U.S. protection since the beginning of the U.S. Navy and will continue to have this protection as long as they fly the U.S. flag.”38 Secretary Weinberger’s report to Congress stated, “Under international and U.S. domestic law, these prerequisites to and incidents of U.S. registration establish effective jurisdiction by the United States over commercial vessels of its flag. In practice, they provide the ‘genuine link’ with the United States that under international law impresses authentic U.S. nationality on the Kuwaiti tankers.”39
The administration’s reasoning was circular: that by flying the U.S. flag, the genuine link was established, a link that legally should have preceded the reflagging. The U.S. administration’s position on reflagging differed from that of its British partners who were also considering taking on a similar responsibility with the Kuwaitis. The British considered the arrangement purely commercial with no extraneous military or foreign policy implications in the matter.40

One main question arose with regards to the actual reflagging of the Kuwaiti vessels: why not just extend U.S. naval protection over the oil tankers and let them remain under the Kuwaiti flag? There was no legal objection to this course of action, and some within the Congress supported that course of action to preserve U.S. neutrality further. Politically, that option was a weaker measure than the reflagging and would have failed to achieve U.S. objectives in the Gulf. Because Kuwait had extended the reflagging offer to Moscow in addition to Washington, the U.S. administration correctly viewed actual reflagging of the vessels as a stronger counter to keep the Soviets out of the Gulf. Domestic political opponents of the Reagan administration did not want a long, open-ended commitment to the protection of foreign vessels. By limiting the protection to just 11 ships, informing the Iranians of which ships were under U.S. escort, and providing an overwhelming show-of-force from the U.S. Navy, the administration gave itself a high chance of success.41 By reflagging the ships instead of pursuing a defensive alliance, pursuing diplomatic measures in the United Nations to halt the conflict, and restricting the flow of weapons to Iran through Operation Staunch, the U.S. garnered international support and mitigated fears of, “an open-ended unilateral American commitment to defend all non-belligerent shipping in the Gulf.”42 Kuwaiti vessels sailing under the U.S. flag also provided a justification for increasing the U.S. naval presence in the Gulf to intimidate the Iranians.43

An additional legal argument put forward by the administration was the protection of freedom of navigation in the Gulf. Under the 1907 Hague Convention on Automatic Submarine Contact Mines and later UN Security Council resolutions, the mining of shipping channels was illegal.44 The U.S. proved that Iranian forces were mining shipping lanes in the Gulf when it photographed, raided, and captured an Iranian mine-laying vessel. Since the freedom of navigation has consistently been a pillar of U.S. foreign policy, the administration used Iranian actions as justification for a naval response.

Combatant attacks on neutral ships in the Gulf were illegal with “no room for doubt.”45 In 1959 the International Court of Justice ruled that neutral warships and tankers can travel through international straits if the littoral nations are at war and that blocking a strait is illegal.46 An active, increased U.S. presence in the Gulf provided a counterweight to these illegal operations that impeded freedom of navigation for neutral shipping vessels and, “serve[d] the important function under international law of effective state protest against illegal Iranian and Iraqi actions”.47

The presence of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf to protect the vessels was legitimate and legally justifiable to enforce the principles governing the freedom of navigation and support global trade. Margaret G. Wachenfeld summed up the operation as follows:

“Iran openly disregarded the standards of the world community and failed to observe the basic obligations coincident with the act of mining. The combination of keeping the seas open despite intimidating and sometimes deadly overtures from both Persian Gulf belligerents, sweeping the area to rid it of mines, and responding when necessary in self-defense sets an important precedent in dealing with difficult and protracted conflict that can have substantial impact on the world economy.”48

In the final months of the conflict, Washington expanded the scope of its naval escort operations by providing military protection to all civilian vessels in the Persian Gulf. While the U.S. had a legal right to defend its own flagged vessels, the extension of that protection to all neutral shipping was legally unsound. Under normal legal considerations, warships can only intervene on behalf of vessels flying their own flags. However, humanitarian concerns and economic interests trumped concerns of legality. Scarce international opposition emerged, and Washington met almost no opposition to the declaration.49

A second potential legal problem with the operation was the neutral status of the vessels and their U.S. escorts. While Kuwait was a non-combatant, oil exports via Kuwaiti ports and Kuwaiti ships were Iraq’s primary source of funding during the war. Due to this context, Iran claimed that Kuwait’s vessels were legitimate wartime targets. If U.S. warships facilitated the flow of income to Iraq, some observers worried they could be considered combatants as well. The 1909 London Declaration—an international maritime agreement from the 1909 London Naval Conference which governed naval conflict in wartime—stated that a combatant vessel does not lose its combatant status by changing flags, thus, “if Kuwait is characterized as a belligerent, the character of the tanker was not altered by the U.S. reflagging, and Iran would not have been required by international law to respect the neutral character of the U.S. flag.”50  Despite claims by Kuwait and the United States of neutrality, the reasoning was thin. It was a primary reason for U.S. domestic opposition to the operation as discussed earlier. Iran attacked the United States claim of neutrality at the United Nations. The Ayatollah Khamenei, in his speech to the UN General Assembly in 1987, stated that due to the United States’ actions “the Persian Gulf has turned into a dangerous powder-keg,” and declared America “the initiator of the trouble.”51 Despite the veil of neutrality and Iran’s protestations, most third-party nations believed the war had gone on long enough and supported the U.S. decision. At the height of the coalition 40 vessels from coalition partners such as Great Britain and France participated in the intervention.52

Under naval warfare laws, declaring a convoy ‘neutral’ ensures that no contraband is aboard the vessels. The 1909 London Declaration declares “absolute contrabrand”—such as arms, military equipment, military uniforms, and items used for the manufacture of arms—as subject to seizure while en route towards enemy territory. Fuel was considered “conditional contraband” which could only be seized if en route towards the government or military of the enemy.53 Fuel transported out of Iraq via Kuwait could not be considered contraband by these terms. However, some legal scholars state that a case could be argued that only the northbound direction of transit, i.e., of empty tankers, was truly neutral.54 Kuwait was by no means purely neutral in the conflict, and a legal case could have been made to justify Iran’s continued targeting of the reflagged vessels. In fact, the failure of the UN Security Council to designate an aggressor state in this conflict allowed the parties to the conflict to maintain a vague ‘neutral’ status (since both Iraq and Iran received significant aid from third-party nations). The actions of most of these parties, however, “more closely resembled nonbelligerency than neutrality.”55 From a legal standpoint, many of the national and international laws and regulations relating to neutral shipping, as well as re-flagging, were ignored throughout the Iran-Iraq war.56 Political and wartime reality outweighed adherence to international legal norms.

Initial U.S. efforts to enact international legislation authorizing their actions met with mixed results. On June 1, 1984 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 552 which condemned attacks on neutral shipping and demanded that they stop immediately. The measure was supported by the United States but failed to curb the tanker war. Neither Iraq nor Iran abided by the measure or recognized its stipulations.

Consequences of Re-flagging

The first reflagged convoy prepared to sail in July 1987. Simultaneously, the U.S. had been trying to gain international agreement for a new resolution calling for a ceasefire by both sides, a return to pre-war boundaries, and cooperation for a peaceful settlement. On July 20 those efforts succeeded when the Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 598 that did end the conflict. The concurrence of China and Russia created hope for greater cooperation between West and East. Secretary of State George Shultz wrote that, “A thaw in the Cold War was clearly underway.”57 While Iraq accepted the measure, Iran rejected it because it did not cite Iraq as the initial aggressor.58

The Iran-Iraq War, and specifically the tanker war that drew in the superpowers and was a major concern of governments and energy markets for half a decade, was over. Four hundred and forty-one ships had been attacked by airstrike, speedboat, or mine during the war, and 151 were sunk or destroyed beyond repair. Roughly 58 percent of those ships were oil tankers. Estimated shipping and vessel losses from the tanker war totalled $2.5 billion and almost 400 lives were lost (the vast majority from Iraqi attacks).59 In April 1989 the Kuwaiti tankers lowered the stars and stripes and resumed their original colors.

Despite the questionable legality of the operation, the reflagging decision was a successful gamble on part of the Reagan administration. By shaping the operation as essential during the Cold War, the regional mission helped to end the Iran-Iraq War, prevented the Soviet Union from achieving a strengthened position in the Persian Gulf, and solidified U.S. ties to the Gulf Monarchies. Domestic opposition in the United States failed to delay or cancel the operation, and the legislative branch reached the limits of its ability to exert influence over U.S. foreign policy and military deployments.

Operation Earnest Will showcases multiple lessons in diplomacy and U.S. foreign policy. First, through questionable legal maneuvers and in the face of political opposition, the Reagan administration found a way to carry out its desired foreign policy in the Persian Gulf. When U.S. strategic interests in the region were threatened by Soviet influence and oil disruptions, the President deployed the military to ensure U.S. interests were safeguarded. Second, Earnest Will demonstrated how nations with varied interests such as the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia, and the Gulf Monarchies could unify efforts and produce a coherent approach to solving a regional crisis. Third, Earnest Will was a success largely due to Washington’s two-pronged approach to ending the war. The administration’s diplomatic efforts in the United Nations combined with military action in the Persian Gulf facilitated the end-state and achieved the nation’s goals in the conflict. Finally, international and domestic concerns about the legality of the reflagging operation—and the international concern over establishing a genuine link and maintaining freedom of navigation—serve as reminders to the limits of international law. While law and precedence can impact international courts, diplomatic chambers, and popular opinion, they can only act as speedbumps when the leaders of a major power decide to act. Policymakers will often let history sort out the legality of the operation, long after objectives are met or abandoned.bluestar


i. The War Powers Act (also known as the War Powers Resolution) was a United States Federal Law passed in 1973 to limit the President’s power to deploy U.S. forces into a conflict without the consent of Congress. The act requires the President to request permission from Congress to keep military forces engaged in combat for a period over 60 days.

1. “Reagan Statement on U.S. Role in the Gulf”, The New York Times, Published 30 May, 1987, accessed 2 February, 2015,

2. Memo from William Martin to McFarlane, 28 November 1983, RAC Box 8., Collection Crisis Management Center, NSC: Record, 1981-85 Collection, Reagan Presidential Library Archive

3., Memo from McFarlane to Regan, 13 March 1984, box 36, folder titled “Iran-Iraq War 1983-4/31/84 (2)”, Exec. Sec. NSC, Iran-Iraq War Collection, Reagan Presidential Library Archive

4. “Talking Points for Robert C.McFarlane: Iran-Iraq Energy Briefing For the Vice President and Secretary Regan”, 15 March 1984. Box 36. Folder titled “Iran-Iraq War: 1983-4/31/84 (2)” in Executive Secretariat of the NSC Collection. Hereafter referred to as “Talking Points for McFarlane Energy Briefing”

5. LaFeber, Walter. America, Russia, and the Cold War: 1945-1996 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997), 279

6. “Talking Points for McFarlane Energy Briefing”

7. Parra, Francisco. Oil Politics: A Modern History of Petroleum (New York: I.B. Tauris and Co., Ltd, 2010), 238

8. Hooton, E.R. and Martin, S. Navias. Tanker Wars: The Assault on Merchant Shipping During the Iran-Iraq Crisis, 1980-1988 (New York: I.B. Tauris and Co. Ltd, 1996), 83

9. Kelley, Stephen Andrew, “Better Lucky Than Good: Operation Earnest Will As Gunboat Diplomacy”. Naval Postgraduate School Thesis, June 2007, 41

10. Hooton and Navias, 111-119

11. Murphy, Richard, Current Policy #958 “International Shipping and the Iran-Iraq War” , Box 70, Folder has same title “Current Policy No. 958-” Records Relating to Major Publications, 1949-1990 Collection, National Archives College Park, Hereafter referred to as “Current Policy #958”

12. Kelley, 48

13. Gause III, F. Gregory. The International Relations of the Persian Gulf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 72

14. “A Report to the Congress on Security Arrangements in the Persian Gulf” 15 June 1987, Box 91982, folder titled “Persian Gulf 1987 (06/05/1987-06/14/1987)”, Near East and South Asian Directorate, NSC Collection, Reagan Presidential Library Archive. Hereafter referred to as “Security Arrangements Report”

15. McNaugher, Thomas. “U.S. Policy and the Gulf War: A Question of Means” in The Persian Gulf War: Lessons for Strategy, Law, and Diplomacy, edited by Christopher C. Joyner (Greenwood Press: New York, 1990), 114

16. “Security Arrangements Report”

17. Battle, Joyce, “Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1983” , National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82. George Washington University National Security Archive, February 25, 2003. Available at NSA Archives online at

18. “Current Policy #958”

19. Zatarain, Lee Allen, America’s First Clash With Iran: The Tanker War, 1987-1988 (New York: Casemate Publishers, 2010), 54

20. Shultz, George P. Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as a Secretary of State” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993), 930

21. Shultz, 931

22. Ibid., 931

23. Gerstenzang, James and Getlin, Josh, “Navy to Begin Escorting Kuwaiti Tankers July 22”, Los Angeles Time, July 15, 1987

24. Shultz, 927

25. Ibid., 928

16. “Security Arrangements Report”

27. “Talking points for Venice Summit”, Box 91982, Folder titled “Persian Gulf 1987 (01/01/1987-06/04/1987)”, Near East and South Asia Directorate, NSC Collection, Reagan Presidential Library Archive. Hereafter referred to as “Venice Summit”

28. “Reflagging Kuwaiti Tankers: A U.S. Response in the Persian Gulf”, Duke Law Journal Vol. 37, No. 1, 1988, referred to as Duke Law Journal, 174

29. Duke Law Journal, 177

30. Ibid., 174

31. Ibid., 178-183

32. Ibid., 184

33. DeGuttry, Andrea and Ronzitti, Natalino, eds. The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and the Law of Naval Warfare (Cambridge: Grotius Publications Limited, 1993), 12

34. Caron, David D. “Choice and Duty in Foreign Affairs: The Reflagging of the Kuwaiti Tankers”, in Joyner, 163

35. Duke Law Journal, 185-187

36. Ibid., 187

37. Caron, 154

38. Ibid., 156

39. Ibid., 163

40. Ibid., 157

41. Ibid., 159

42. “Security Arrangements Report”

43. Duke Law Journal, 188

44. DeGuttry, 5

45. Ibid., 8

46. Ibid., 7

47. Duke Law Journal, 176

48. Ibid., 201

49. DeGuttry, 8-9

50. Caron, 165

51. Address by the Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei at the 42nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 22 September 1987, text available at

52. Cordesman, Anthony, “Chapter 14: The Tanker War and the Lessons of Naval Conflict”, in The Lessons of Modern War, Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War, 1990, Center for Strategic and International Studies

53. Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War, 208 Consol. T.S. 338 (1909), available online at the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library,

54. Politakis, George. Modern Aspects of the Laws of Naval Warfare and Maritime Neutrality (Kegan Paul International: London, 1998), 561

55. Boczek, Boleslaw Adam “The Law of Maritime Warfare and Neutrality in the Gulf”, in Joyner, 181

56. Ibid., 183

57. Shultz, 932

58. Kelley, 68

59. Zatarain, 403


AuthorChristian Heller is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and holds a Masters of Philosophy in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford. He is currently serving in the United States Marine Corps as an intelligence officer and Middle East/North Africa Regional Affairs officer.



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