Iran, The Strait of Hormuz and the Politics of Oil

Iran  warned yesterday that it would shut down the Strait of Hormuz if stiffer sanctions were placed against it.  The US and its allies believe that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon,  a charge that is being denied by Iran.  Congress has recently passed a bill in both  chambers requiring that sanctions be placed on Iran’s Central Bank.  Closing down the Strait of Hormuz would stifle world trade and the supply of oil,  since 40% of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes through it.

The European Union has also left the door open to tougher sanctions, which could include an embargo on Iranian oil.  Iran is the 5th largest exporter of crude.  Arab States have said that they are prepared to ramp up their production to take up the void left by removing Iranian oil from the global market.

Iran ratcheted up its rhetoric on State television again today, with its Navy chief,  Habibollah Sayyari, saying that it would be easy to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.

“Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran’s armed forces is really easy … or as Iranians say it will be easier than drinking a glass of water, he said.”  “But right now, we don’t need to shut it as we have the Sea of Oman under control and we can control the transit.”

Iran is presently conducting a ten day exercise in the Strait.

The US Navy doesn’t appear to be to concerned over Iran’s threat and stated it would not permit the closure of the Strait.

“The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity,” spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich told the BBC, adding that the Navy would be ready to act if required.

“The US Navy is a flexible, multi-capable force committed to regional security and stability, always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”  BBC

The Pentagon responded to Iran’s threat saying “Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated.

John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, dismisses the Iranian threat. 

He doesn’t believe that the Iranians have any capability to close the Strait and if they did it would not last longer than three days.   In his opinion Iran has a lot to lose and not only its navy.  The U.S. Navy is multi-capable and well within reach of Iranian targets.   The bottom line is that Iran would attempt a shutdown at its own peril.

America’s addiction to oil makes it vulnerable to Middle East oil producing states.  As such one would think that developing North American sources of energy, including the Alberta Oil Sands would be high on the priority of the Obama Administration.  Putting Americans in harms way to secure oil does not make a lot of sense.

While Iran’s threats will probably have little impact other than in Iran itself, it is high time that the U.S. work toward a secure and safe supply of energy.

About the Author

Karl Gotthardt - Politisite Managing Editor Maj. Gotthardt is a Retired Military Officer with 35 years service in the Canadian Armed Forces. He spent most of his time in the Military in Infantry Battalions. Karl took part in training for Afghanistan as an Operator Analyst with the Canadian Maneouvre Training Centre. Karl is a qualified military parachutist and military free fall parachutist. He earned his U.S. Master Jump Wings in Fort Benning, Georgia. Karl enjoys working with horses for the last 24 year. He owns six. He has experience in breeding, training and of course riding.Karl was born in Germany and is fluent in both English and German and he speaks enough French to "get in trouble". Karl has written or writes at NowPublic, All Voices, Tek Journalism and many others.

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