How Iran Would Lose by Mining the Strait of Hormuz

By Rogan, Tom | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, July 6, 2018 | Go to article overview

How Iran Would Lose by Mining the Strait of Hormuz


Rogan, Tom, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Iran would have big problems if it attempted to close the Strait of Hormuz, the only passage out of the Persian Gulf and into the Indian Ocean.

But that's exactly what Iranian leaders threatened to do this week. Motivated by U.S. warnings that sanctions will be imposed on any nation that buys Iranian oil exports after Nov. 4, on Tuesday, President Hassan Rouhani said that the "[U.S. warning] has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported." On Thursday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Jafari declared that "either everyone or no one can use the Strait of Hormuz."

As I say, this would be a very bad idea for Iran.

Don't get me wrong, with 20-30 percent of global oil exports passing through the narrow strait, Iran's threats cannot be taken lightly. The Islamic Republic has a large stockpile of maritime mines, capable anti-ship missiles, and a sizable navy. On paper, these capabilities would allow the ayatollah's forces to close the strait and stop shipments from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar. Saudi oil exports would have to be relocated to the kingdom's Red Sea ports. If carried out successfully, a strait closure would cause spiking global oil prices, rising gas prices, and deep fear in the financial markets. This screenshot from MarineTraffic.com shows the scale of shipping that passes through the strait (the red square) each day.
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Still, Iran's power potential here must be measured against its counterbalance: the U.S. military and its allies. It's a crucial consideration in that the U.S. military’s Central Command, CENTCOM, has a well-developed plan to keep the strait open.

Developed by now-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis when he was commanding CENTCOM between 2010 and 2013, the plan involves employing a rapid multinational effort to prevent Iranian mine-laying and systematically clear any mines already deployed. And it's a very good plan. The multinational focus is designed to deter Iranian escalation against marginal adversaries like France and utilize boutique capabilities such as those of Britain’s Royal Navy mine hunters. …

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