Iran's Strait of Hormuz Threat is Serious, Iranian Saber Rattling Cannot Be Ignored

Outrageous statements coming out of Tehran are as common are celebrity divorces.

This week, Tehran raised eyebrows around the world again with claims that it could easily close off the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic trading pathway in the Persian Gulf region. Like their growing nuclear program, this appears to be another instance of Iranian saber rattling. Through this, Iran continues to make conflict increasingly harder to avoid.

Nearly 25% of the world’s oil passes through the strait. If the strait were closed, the price of oil could skyrocket, shocking the world economy. 

There are several scenarios in which one could envision conflict breaking out in some manner.  If Iran does close off the Hormuz oil route, friction could be difficult to avoid. A recent statement from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet simply says that Iran's disrupting traffic through the strategic route “will not be tolerated.” During the war games that are currently underway, Iran has always made it a point to highlight their supposedly radar-immune submarines, which can silently target passing ships as they pass.

The closing of the strait would undoubtedly trigger a response. At some point, the American and Iranian fleets would meet. Tensions would rise, nerves would fray, and someone would make the smallest mistake. It’s not a concept that war-weary Americans would relish, yet one that could be hard to avoid should the Iranians blockade the route. 

A blockade is the lesser of the ways that Iran could thumb its nose to the world, and they know it. Their nuclear ambitions could be the match that would ignite the entire Mideast, and indeed much of the globe. 

Tensions with Iran over its nuclear ambitions have been rising steadily, fueled in part by a recent United Nations report confirming Iran’s nuclear program and its progress. The Iranian regime has maintained that its nuclear program is intended only for energy production, however many are not convinced.

Our ally Israel, and in particular its hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has stated repeatedly that it would act to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. President Obama, always hesitant to sound stern when discussing the Iranian regime, has taken steps to quietly reassure Israel that the U.S. will have its back in the event Iran crosses one of several “red lines.” It still remains to be seen if the Obama administration would take the plunge or allow Israel to go at it alone should the terrible choice eventually present itself. 

Concerning Iran’s nuclear program or threats of a naval blockade, policymakers have been dealing with Iran all wrong. Nobody wants to see another war come so soon, and we should be willing to discuss these issues with the Iranian regime. But can we truly negotiate with them? How does one talk to a country whose leaders have stated publicly that it must wipe Israel off of the map? Iran has continually thumbed its nose at the world.

Like its ongoing and allegedly peaceful "nuclear" program, Iran's threats to close off the Strait of Hormuz should be taken seriously. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs who are the puppet masters in the country repeatedly seem to test the world’s reaction with their statements. We must only hope that these statements won’t one day result in action needing to be taken.

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