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It’s time for the president to speak to this issue and to make clear that the security of the Strait of Hormuz is not a tactical matter for theater commanders to deal with, but rather a strategic interest of the United States—and as such a top priority for the commander-in-chief. As the Wall Street Journal advised last week, the president “should say plainly that any attempt to close or disrupt traffic through the strait would be considered an act of war that would be met with a military response.”
In other words, any mischief or interference by Iran’s military should draw an immediate military response from the U.S. Navy, and the White House should be prepared to use such a provocation as an opportunity to deliver a crushing blow to the Iranian navy—and perhaps to other nodes of the Iranian regime’s power.
The president doesn’t need to publicly define what that response will look like, but he needs to put Tehran on notice that it will not be permitted to toy with international shipping and global energy supplies.
The Persian Gulf is an American lake, and in order to ensure the security and flow of those energy supplies it must remain so. After all, those supplies represent a vital strategic interest for the United States. The only way some modicum of stability in and around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf can be guaranteed is if Iran understands the seriousness of American resolve. That requires more than words. It also requires actions.
For example, if, as reports indicate, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis left the Gulf to sail east, it or another carrier needs to return to the Gulf to make it clear to Tehran that the U.S. Navy can and will move at will through the Strait. Recall that an Iranian military official recently declared that “the enemy’s carrier” would not be allowed to return to the Persian Gulf. “I advise, recommend and warn them over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once,” a state-run press agency blustered. Tehran must be disabused of any notions that it can constrain U.S. freedom of action.
Of course, the issuance of a Reaganesque “Hormuz Doctrine” from President Obama seems unlikely. After all, Obama is the man who ignored his commanders and sounded a general retreat in Iraq, “led from behind” in Libya, and inexplicably and indefensibly averted his gaze and bit his tongue when the Iranian people tried to topple the tyrants of Tehran in 2009.
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