Iran, the Strait, and why it wont close.

Iran ships oil to China via the Strait. It needs the oil revenue.

the rest is noise.

It won’t close.

“Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces,” Iran’s navy chief Habibollah Sayyari told state-run propaganda channel Press TV. “Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway.” His comments followed similar words from Vice President Reza Rohimi yesterday, and an announcement a few weeks ago that the Iranian navy would be conducting military exercises to simulate shutting the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of world’s sea-borne oil passes.

During the so-called Tanker War between the Iranians and Iraqis during the 1980s, shipping in the Strait was severely threatened by both sides. Both countries sought to deprive the other of oil revenue, and attacked the boats of neutral parties as well as their direct enemies. All of that drove up the price of oil and shipping insurance, but didn’t ever close the Strait of Hormuz. Eventually, the US Navy began escorting ships through the Strait, concerned about the global price of oil.

October 1987 US warships destroy an Iranian oil platform after an Iranian missile injures 18 crew on a US oil tanker.

April 1988 US forces destroy two more offshore installations after 10 sailors on a US frigate are injured in a mine explosion. Washington alleges the oil platforms are being used to launch attacks on shipping in the Gulf. Iran denies the claim.

In retaliation for the mining of a US warship on April 14, which Washington blamed on Tehran, the US navy fights a one-day battle against Iranian forces in and around the strait. The Americans sink two Iranian warships and as many as six armed speedboats in the engagement, which is regarded at the time as the largest confrontation between surface fleets since the second world war.

July 1988 A US warship patrolling the Gulf shoots down a civilian Iranian airbus, killing almost 300 people. Washington claims the crew mistook the airliner for an Iranian F-14 fighter but has never apologised for the incident.

March 2007 Iran’s republican guards seize 15 UK naval personnel in the Gulf at gunpoint as they return to HMS Cornwall. The Royal Navy insists they had been inside Iraqi water when they were seized.

March 2007 The US navy sends two aircraft carriers and up to 100 jets to the Gulf in its most extensive military manoeuvres since the 2003 Iraq invasion.

September 2007 The US military says Iran has built a high-tech spy post in the Gulf on the remains of a crane platform, to track the movement of western naval forces and commercial shipping.

On Jan. 12, 2012, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration was relying on a secret channel of communication to warn Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that closing the strait was a “red line” that would provoke an American response, according to U.S. government officials.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the U.S. would “take action and reopen the strait,” which could be accomplished only by military means, including minesweepers, warship escorts and potentially airstrikes. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told troops in Texas on Jan. 12 that the U.S. would not tolerate Iran’s closing of the strait.

Iran’s own shaky economy relies on exporting at least two million barrels of oil a day through the strait. A blockade would also punish China, Iran’s most important oil customer and a major recipient of Persian Gulf oil. China has invested heavily in Iranian oil fields and has opposed Western efforts to sanction Iran over its nuclear program.

Outright Closure. An outright closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a major artery of the global oil market, would be an unprecedented disruption of global oil supply and contribute to higher global oil prices. However, at present, this appears to be a low probability event. Were this to occur, it is not likely to be prolonged. It would likely trigger a military response from the United States and others, which
could reach beyond simply reestablishing Strait transit. Iran would also alienate countries that currently oppose broader oil sanctions. Iran could become more likely to actually pursue this if few or no countries were willing to import its oil.
• Harassment and/or Infrastructure Damage. Iran could harass tanker traffic through the Strait through a range of measures without necessarily shutting down all traffic. This took place during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Also, critical energy production and export infrastructure could be damaged as a result of
military action by Iran, the United States, or other actors. Harassment or infrastructure damage could contribute to lower exports of oil from the Persian Gulf, greater uncertainty around oil supply, higher shipping costs, and consequently higher oil prices. However, harassment also runs the risk of
triggering a military response and alienating Iran’s remaining oil customers.
• Continued Threats. Iranian officials could continue to make threatening statements without taking action. This could still raise energy market tensions and contribute to higher oil prices, though only to the degree that oil market participants take such threats seriously.

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3 Responses to Iran, the Strait, and why it wont close.

  1. shulquist says:

    from an article on the wikileak stratford release….Stolen e-mails from a U.S. intelligence firm indicate that Israel has destroyed all Iranian nuclear infrastructures on the ground.

    The e-mail from the Stratfor company released by Wikileaks on Monday cited a “confirmed Israeli intelligence agent.” It is one of five million e-mails that the anti-secrecy website plans to release in the coming days.

    The e-mails are rumored to have been hacked by the Anonymous hackers group, which has threatened in a YouTube video to launch cyber attacks on Israeli websites.

    The Israel-Iran e-mail comes in the wake of a November 2011 explosion that killed 17 workers at an Iranian Revolutionary Guard base near Tehran, which Iran said was an accident.

    “I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed the entire Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago. The current ‘let’s bomb Iran’ campaign was ordered by the EU leaders to divert the public attention from their at home financial problems,” read the e-mail from the Israeli source. The operation was undertaken with the help of Kurdish rebels, according to the e-mail.

    The Stratfor company said in a statement Monday that the e-mails published “may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic,”

    Stratfor is a global security analysis company that has been likened to a shadow CIA. Its clients include American government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Marine Corps, and the Dow Chemical company.

  2. shulquist says:

    from3/6/2012 #gifiles

    I don’t think they will in the near future, not because they don’t want
    to, but because Obama doesn’t want them to. Israel has pushed back the
    date that Iran will have nukes, which takes some of the pressure off. I
    also don’t think Netanyahu wants to challenge Obama this early in their
    relationship. He was just here, and I’m sure they talked about it, and I
    can’t imagine Obama gave him even the hint of a green light. I don’t
    think Obama would be very pleased with Netanyahu jumping the gun on him.
    Obama’s Nobel speech was very pointed about using force when threatened,
    so he has credibility when it comes to using it, but he obviously doesn’t
    feel it’s the right time for anything but sanctions. He’s a very patient
    man.

    it seems to me that attacking Iran is a big leap up for the Israeli Air
    Force too. It’s a long flight over countries that won’t look the other
    way on overflights, and they have only one shot to get it right. They
    can’t do shock and awe for sustained periods like we can do. The Iranians
    may be a little better at defense too than the Syrians because they may
    know the Israelis are coming. I don’t how they would practice for it.

  3. shulquist says:

    from 3/5/2012 #gifile
    From: “Reva Bhalla”
    To: secure@stratfor.com
    Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:55:29 PM
    Subject: Re: INSIGHT – military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal
    status of forces

    one more thing, i was talking on the way out to one of the USAF women in
    the office who introduced me to her husband working out of the J8 Force
    Structure office. When we were talking about Iran, she was talking about
    how incredible some of the imagery was coming out of Isfahan post-blast.
    It was pretty clear that she was talking sabotage ops. Those blasts
    weren’t all accidental

    ———————————————————————-

    From: “Reva Bhalla”
    To: secure@stratfor.com
    Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:49:18 PM
    Subject: INSIGHT – military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status
    of forces

    A few points I wanted to highlight from meetings today —

    I spent most of the afternoon at the Pentagon with the USAF strategic
    studies group – guys who spend their time trying to understand and explain
    to the USAF chief the big picture in areas where they’re operating in. It
    was just myself and four other guys at the Lieutenant Colonel level,
    including one French and one British representative who are liaising with
    the US currently out of DC.

    They wanted to grill me on the strategic picture on Syria, so after that I
    got to grill them on the military picture. There is still a very low level
    of understanding of what is actually at stake in Syria, what’s the
    strategic interest there, the Turkish role, the Iranian role, etc. After a
    couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams
    (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground
    focused on recce missions and training opposition forces. One Air Force
    intel guy (US) said very carefully that there isn’t much of a Free Syrian
    Army to train right now anyway, but all the operations being done now are
    being done out of ‘prudence.’ The way it was put to me was, ‘look at this
    way – the level of information known on Syrian OrBat this month is the
    best it’s been since 2001.’ They have been told to prepare contingencies
    and be ready to act within 2-3 months, but they still stress that this is
    all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation.

    I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working
    toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a
    Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from
    that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla
    attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite
    forces, elicit collapse from within. There wouldn’t be a need for air
    cover, and they wouldn’t expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in
    columns anyway.

    They emphasized how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a
    piece of cake. Syrian air defenses are a lot more robust and are much
    denser, esp around Damascus and on the borders with Israel, Turkey. THey
    are most worried about mobile air defenses, particularly the SA-17s that
    they’ve been getting recently. It’s still a doable mission, it’s just not
    an easy one.

    The main base they would use is Cyprus, hands down. Brits and FRench would
    fly out of there. They kept stressing how much is stored at Cyprus and how
    much recce comes out of there. The group was split on whether Turkey would
    be involved, but said Turkey would be pretty critical to the mission to
    base stuff out of there. EVen if Turkey had a poltiical problem with
    Cyprus, they said there is no way the Brits and the FRench wouldn’t use
    Cyprus as their main air force base. Air Force Intel guy seems pretty
    convinced that the Turks won’t participate (he seemed pretty pissed at
    them.)

    There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military
    intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It
    isn’t clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can’t just
    create an NFZ over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD
    campaign lasting the duration of the war. They dont believe air
    intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a
    massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would
    have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn’t reach that very
    public stage. Theyre also questiioning the skills of the Syrian forces
    that are operating the country’s air defenses currently and how
    signfiicant the Iranian presence is there. Air Force Intel guy is most
    obsessed with the challenge of taking out Syria’s ballistic missile
    capabilities and chem weapons. With Israel rgiht there and the regime
    facing an existential crisis, he sees that as a major complication to any
    military intervention.

    The post 2011 SOFA with Iraq is still being negotiated. These guys were
    hoping that during Biden’s visit that he would announce a deal with
    Maliki, but no such luck. They are gambling ont he idea that the Iraqis
    remember the iran-iraq war and that maliki is not going to want to face
    the threat of Iranian jets entering Iraqi air space. THey say that most
    US fighter jets are already out of Iraq and transferred to Kuwait. They
    explained that’s the beauty of the air force, the base in Kuwait is just a
    hop, skip and jump away from their bases in Europe, ie. very easy to
    rapidly build up when they need to. They don’t seem concerned about the
    US ability to restructure its forces to send a message to Iran. They gave
    the example of the USS Enterprise that was supposed to be out of
    commission already and got extended another couple years to send to the
    gulf. WHen the US withdraws, we’ll have at least 2 carriers in the gulf
    out of centcom and one carrier in the Med out of EuCom. I asked if the
    build-up in Kuwait and the carrier deployments are going to be enough to
    send a message to Iran that the US isn’t going anywhere. They responded
    that Iran will get the message if they read the Centcom Web Site. STarting
    Jan. 1 expect them to be publishing all over the place where the US is
    building up.

    Another concern they have about an operation in Syria is whether Iran
    could impede operations out of Balad air force base in Iraq.

    The French representative was of hte opinion that Syria won’t be a
    libya-type situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not
    in an election year. The UK rep also emphasized UK reluctance but said
    that the renegotiation of the EU treaty undermines the UK role and that UK
    would be looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent ( i dont
    really think a syria campaign is the way to do that.) UK guy mentioned as
    an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from
    a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, ie someone that understands
    what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a
    coincidence.

    Prior to that, I had a meeting with an incoming Kuwaiti diplomat (will be
    coded as KU301.) His father was high up in the regime, always by the
    CP’s/PM’s side. The diplo himself still seems to be getting his feet wet
    in DC (the new team just arrived less than 2 weeks ago,) but he made
    pretty clear that Kuwait was opening the door to allowing US to build up
    forces as needed. THey already have a significant presence there, and a
    lot of them will be on 90-day rotations. He also said that the SOFA that
    the US signs with Baghdad at the last minute will be worded in such a way
    that even allowing one trainer in the country can be construed to mean
    what the US wants in terms of keeping forces in Iraq. Overall, I didnt get
    the impression from him that Kuwait is freaked out about the US leaving.
    Everyhting is just getting rearranged. The Kuwaitis used to be much
    better at managing their relations with Iran, but ever since that spy ring
    story came out a year ago, it’s been bad. He doesn’t think Iran has
    significant covert capabililiteis in the GCC states, though they are
    trying. Iranian activity is mostly propaganda focused. He said that while
    KSA and Bahrain they can deal with it as needed and black out the media,
    Kuwait is a lot more open and thus provides Iran with more oppotunity to
    shape perceptions (he used to work in inforamtion unit in Kuwait.) He says
    there is a sig number of kuwaitis that listen to Iranian media like Al
    Alam especially.

    On the Kuwaiti political scene – the government is having a harder time
    dealing with a more emboldened opposition, but the opposition is still
    extremely divided, esp among the Islamists. The MPs now all have to go
    back to their tribes to rally support for the elections to take place in
    Feb. Oftentimes an MP in Kuwait city will find out that he has lost
    support back home with the tribe, and so a lot of moeny is handed out.The
    govt is hoping that witha clean slate they can quiet the opposition down.
    A good way of managing the opposition he said is to refer cases to the
    courts, where they can linger forever. good way for the govt to buy time.
    He doesnt believe the Arab League will take significant action against
    Syria – no one is interested in military intervention. they just say it to
    threaten it.

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