Monday, March 07, 2005

Iran to Block Straights of Hormuz?

Wretchard notes Austin Bay's thoughts regarding Iranian government threats to close the Straights of Hormuz if the US harasses their nuclear program via the UN.

The Iranians could blockade the Gulf, but for how long is the question. (DIA) Director Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby testified last month that:

"Iran can briefly close the Strait of Hormuz, relying on a layered strategy using predominantly naval, air and some ground forces. Last year it purchased North Korean torpedo and missle-armed fast attack craft and midget submarines, making margin improvements to this capability."

In the end, Wretchard writes, this is likely to be more a negotiating tactic of Tehran than any substantial threat:

But the bottom line is that an Iranian blockade of the Gulf of Hormuz will probably fail to stop tanker traffic completely, just as it failed in the 1980s. US forces in the region have grown comparatively more capable, with facilities within the Gulf itself, both in Bahrain and in Iraq, for example. An Iranian blockade would however, disrupt tanker sailings, increase insurance premiums and generally drive the cost of crude upwards; it might even sink a number of tankers and naval vessels, but in the end the United States would prevail. Strangely enough, the Iran blockade threat is more powerful "in being" than in actual implementation. While it remains simply a threat, it can be used as a diplomatic lever to extract concessions. If actually carried out, Europe and China, whatever their political inclinations, would be forced by economic necessity to help break the blockade.

I agree, but all of this highlights that Tehran is escalating rhetoric in order to keep their ability to nuke Tel Aviv or, eventually, New York.

Should be an interesting summer.