Just In Time -- Iran Threatens To Close Strait Of Hormuz To Oil Transit

Dec 29, 2011 | Updated Feb 27, 2012

Amid increased pressure from sanctions and now facing a voluntary embargo that would curtail their oil exports to a wide spectrum of their important crude oil customers such as the European Union, Japan, and Korea, Iran is coming under massive economic pressure to desist from continuing its not so clandestine program of developing a nuclear arsenal. The economic situation in Iran is becoming increasingly acute evidenced by its plummeting currency vs. the value of the dollar and other currencies. Clearly, the sanctions and the prospect of an oil embargo would have a crushing impact on a crumbling economy. Such that Iran is now threatening retaliation.

The Iranian government, through its Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, has now steadfastly proclaimed that, "If they impose sanction's on Iran's oil exports than even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz." The Iranians have already had fleet maneuvers in and about the Strait of Hormuz, and seemingly the message is clear: inhibit our oil exports and we will make passage of any oil through the Strait of Hormuz -- perhaps the most important oil channel in the world, through which some 20% of the world's oil traffics -- closed to all. If Iran succeeded, the world's economy would suffer grievously. Immediately, in response to Rahimi's threats, the price of oil jumped near $2/bbl on Tuesday.

But the question becomes: could they and would they really try, or are the Iranians simply attempting to stir an oil buying panic and raise fears of escalating oil prices and resulting economic disarray in world markets? In doing so they are challenging a long held policy objective subscribed to by many nations including the United States. Maintaining political stability and the free flow of oil to the global economy has been the overarching objective of U.S. foreign policy in the Persian Gulf for almost half a century. The U.S. Navy, together with an allied task force, has been one of the primary instruments of that policy, in both peace and war.

To that end the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet alone has a flotilla of near two score vessels including two aircraft carriers patrolling the Persian Gulf waters. Leaving no room for doubt, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fifth Fleet made it clear on Wednesday that it would not allow any disruption of traffic in the Strait, by responding to the Iranian provocation, "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."

But something very important has come to pass. This Iranian regime has shown its true colors. Whether the Iranians can presently close the Straits is not altogether the issue here. This time around the Iranians may well back off in the face of superior and more sophisticated firepower. But -- and here is the crux of the issue -- would they back off if their nuclear arsenal were in place, and would we be so sanguinely confident that they would desist or be ready to engage them in combat? And under those circumstances, what would our choices be? These current events underline the absolute urgency, given the presumed advanced stage of Iran's nuclear program, that all be done now that can be done, short of open hostilities, to achieve a modus vivendi resulting in a nuclear weapons free Iran; as the next time, with a nuclear bomb in hand, it may be too late and the Strait of Hormuz might well be blocked with the enormous economic destabilization that would result.

Here is a lesson, a set of circumstances that makes it clear we need muster all that can and needs to be done toward achieving energy independence and energy self reliance with utmost urgency.