Showdown in the Strait of Hormuz

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The crisis in the Middle East continues to intensify, and there is a growing probability of armed conflict with Iran in the near future. With its growing international isolation and continued drive toward nuclear weapon capability, the likelihood of Iran initiating hostilities is also a very real possibility.

A fulcrum of confrontation between Iran and the West is the Strait of Hormuz. On January 9, 2012, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s defense minister, stated that Iran has the ability to block the Strait if it deemed it necessary. In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, Defense Intelligence Agency director, stated that “Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz.” Recent Iranian military exercises have emphasized sea denial of the waterway. In response, U.S., British and French warships have transited the Strait to and from the Persian Gulf to assert freedom of navigation. In January, the U.S. Navy reported four cases of harassment of its warships by Iranian naval vessels in the Gulf. Two U.S. carrier strike groups are deployed in the region, and a buildup of U.S. forces is underway.

The importance of Hormuz to global stability is paramount. According to a report from, almost 25 percent of the world’s oil supply transits the Strait daily–some 16.5-17 million barrels according to 2006 estimates–approximately 40 percent of all seaborne traded oil. Over 75 percent of Japan’s oil is carried through this waterway. By 2020, it is estimated that daily traffic will increase to some 30-34 million barrels.

Another thing about the Strait: it’s narrow, between 34-40 miles wide. Furthermore, there are just two 2-mile wide channels, one each for inbound and outbound traffic. Also, this traffic consists mostly of supertankers carrying over two million barrels each, meaning that fewer ships with more oil are carrying this supply.

If Hormuz were closed, as much as one-fifth of the world’s oil supply would be lost (assuming maximum output through pipelines from Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea, Turkey (through Iraq). and, possibly, Lebanon.) For the United States alone, this would have severe effects. According to a GAO report of October 5, 2006, such an occurrence could cause oil prices to increase $175 per barrel. Globally, the effects in such regions as Western Europe and East Asia would be even worse.

If Iran decided to move to close the Strait, it would have a variety of forces at its disposal. Its navy has three Russian-built Kilo-class submarines along with several midget submarines capable of laying mines, ideal for use in the Strait. Its surface forces include four guided-missile frigates and some 150 coastal combatants (another 50 are manned by the Revolutionary Guard Corps.) About 25-30 of these small vessels are equipped with the Chinese-made C-802 anti-ship missile, with a range of 60 kilometers. In addition to ships, there are some 60 C-802s deployed on Qeshm Island, covering the Strait, along                     with large numbers of other anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles there and on other small islands just to the west. Iran also has some 3,000 mines, including around 100 EM53’s, which are rocket-propelled and only strike when activated. There is also Iran’s air force, which fields about 50 F-14 Tomcat and MiG-29 fighters and 24 Su-24 strike aircraft, with some 200 other attack jets. Among the weapons they carry are C-801K anti-ship missiles, similar in capability to the C-802.

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  • treetop

    "……Given that Iran would most likely initiate hostilities…."

    A nd why should oil exporter Iran be interested in sabotaging its sole shipping route?

    Oh yeah, I forgot : They're all crazy for the return of the 12 Immam. LOL

    • hahajid

      Becareful when you make fun of Islam.

      • Islamsucks

        Islam is a joke…started by sheephearders who spent too much time in the sun..

        • carckerjack

          Wrong. Islam was started by merchants who dwelt towns and citys. Judaism was started by goat herders living in tents somwhere in the desert mountains.

          • Snorbak

            Actually you are also wrong, Islam was started by murderous theives that preyed on the merchants who dwelt towns and cities.

      • Snorbak


  • Snorbak

    LOL……What are you 16?
    "Oh yeah, I forgot : They're all crazy for the return of the 12 Immam"
    Ahmadinejad certainly is. You should do a little more research prior to making stupid statements & then thinking its funny.

    • treetop

      And how is blocking ones own vital trade route going to speed up the Immam's return?

      • Snorbak

        Islam teaches that the Mahdi will return at the end of time to judge the world in a similar manner to the teachings of the Bible. However, one of the key differences is that Israel will be destroyed as a nation, the Jews exterminated as a race of people & every nation will be subjegated under a world wide Caliphate.

        What makes Ahmadinejad so dangerous is that he is the leader of a nation pushing for a nuclear capability, a man who has made countless statements calling for the destruction of Israel & belongs to a branch of Islam that believe they can "speed up" this apocalyptic scenario & hasten the return of the Mahdi by instigating the prophesised end times war.

        Ahmadinejad has little concern for the Strait of Hormuz or the millions that would die (including his own people), as a result of any regional/ world wide conflict as he is concentrated on the bigger picture & the end game.

        I have skipped much of the detail but in laymans terms I cant make it any easier to understand.

        • treetop

          Let's get back to the real world. Ahmedinejad, who has just recieved a crushing election defeat, has no authority whatsoever in Iran's military or nuclear decisions. This is not an Iranian presidents function. These matters are decided by the" supreme leader" chamenei and his crew. I personally wouldn't be suprised if Ahmadinejad suffers an "accident" or lands up in jail before to long.

          At the same time, Iranian trade delegations are working closely together with the Indian and Chinese authorities diviseing ways to bypass the Western financial boycott through currency swaps and the likes to keep the oil flowing through the Straights of Hormus. As as we all know: Iran is desperate for curreny at the moment.

          Going by the facts in the real world, closing Hormus must be the last thing on the Iranians mind.

  • Crossbow87

    Pre-emptive strike….haven't seen a juicy opportunity like this in years. By degrading Iran's ability to conduct any of these types of actions itself, we would be saving ourselves the costs associated with a reactive strike.

  • iking

    hey treetop go and have more research, ahmadinejad and the shia clerics ALWAYS invoke the 12th imam whenever and wherever they are babbling.

  • Stan Lee

    It doesn't matter what reason the Iranian Regime would have for inviting its own destruction. If it's the only way they can bring the "12th Imam," they should have their desire.
    What we need to consider is how what they've been doing/what they do affects American policy, which subsequently affects the rest of the industrialized world whether we like it or not.
    The nature of the United States is to be a leader in this world, despite how Obama has strived to reduce us to a 3rd world Socialist nation. The Iranians have been drawing American blood for too long, that regime has gotten away with absolute murder and Obama is too reticent about it because he doesn't love America anyway.
    He just wants reelection because he can't give up the charmed life the moron voters gave him.

  • Stan Lee

    As long as we need to accommodate countries who basically despise our way of life, we are obligated to give them much latitude or suffer the high costs of energy, which if continued will break the USA's treasury!
    This is the result of surrendering to the "environmentalist" lobby of the Democrat Party. They're nuts!
    We have plenty of resources to tap right here at home. It's time we did so!

  • Indioviejo

    War is so unpredictable and horrible, but I am curious. I hope they do start the war, and I hope it is a TOTAL war. I will not forgive Muslims for all their worldwide agression to all of mankind since their appearance on this planet. Shia, Sunni, who cares? There isn't room enough for them on this planet. I know this is just my opinion, but hope springs ethernal.

  • BOB