15 Jan 2008

The Strait of Hormuz Incident and U. S. Strategy

, ,

George Friedman of Stratfor’s latest:

Iranian speedboats reportedly menaced U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 6. Since then, the United States has gone to great lengths to emphasize the threat posed by Iran to U.S. forces in the strait — and, by extension, to the transit of oil from the Persian Gulf region. …

According to U.S. reports and a released video, a substantial number of Iranian speedboats approached a three-ship U.S. naval convoy moving through the strait near Iranian territory Jan. 6. …

The New York Times carried a story Jan. 12, clearly leaked to it by the Pentagon, giving some context for U.S. concerns. According to the story, the United States had carried out war games attempting to assess the consequences of a swarming attack by large numbers of speedboats carrying explosives and suicide crews.

The results of the war games were devastating. In a game carried out in 2002, the U.S. Navy lost 16 major warships, including an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious ships — all in attacks lasting 5-10 minutes. Fleet defenses were overwhelmed by large numbers of small, agile speedboats, some armed with rockets and other weapons, but we assume most operated as manned torpedoes.

The decision to reveal the results of the war game clearly were intended to lend credibility to the Bush administration’s public alarm at the swarming tactics. It raises the issue of why the U.S. warships didn’t open fire, given that the war game must have resulted in some very aggressive rules of engagement against Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz. But more important, it reveals something about the administration’s thinking in the context of Bush’s trip to the region and the controversial National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program. …

One of (President Bush’s) purposes (in traveling to the Middle East) is to create a stronger anti-Iranian coalition among the Arab states on the Arabian Peninsula.

The nuclear threat was not a sufficient glue to create this coalition. For a host of reasons ranging from U.S. intelligence failures in Iraq to the time frame of an Iranian nuclear threat, a nuclear program was simply not seen as a credible basis for fearing Iran’s actions in the region. The states of the Arabian Peninsula were much more afraid of U.S. attacks against Iran than they were of Iranian nuke s in five or 10 years.

The Strait of Hormuz is another matter. Approximately 40 percent of the region’s oil wealth flows through the strait. During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the tanker war, in which oil tankers moving through the Persian Gulf came under attack from aircraft, provided a sideshow. This not only threatened the flow of oil but also drove shipping insurance rates through the roof. The United States convoyed tankers, but the tanker war remains a frightening memory in the region.

The tanker war was trivial compared with the threat the United States rolled out last week. The Strait of Hormuz is the chokepoint through which Persian Gulf oil flows. Close the strait and it doesn’t flow. With oil near $100 a barrel, closing the Strait of Hormuz would raise the price — an understatement of the highest order.

We have no idea what the price of oil would be if the strait were closed. Worse, the countries shipping through the strait would not get any of that money. At $100 a barrel, closing the Strait of Hormuz would take an economic triumph and turn it into a disaster for the very countries the United States wants to weld into an effective anti-Iranian coalition. …

the Iranian naval threat is a far more realistic, immediate and devastating threat to regional interests than the nuclear threat ever was. Building an atomic weapon was probably beyond Iran’s capabilities, while just building a device — an unwieldy and delicate system that would explode under controlled circumstances — was years away. In contrast, the naval threat in the Strait of Hormuz is within Iran’s reach right now. Success is far from a slam dunk considering the clear preponderance of power in favor of U.S. naval forces, but it is not a fantasy strategy by any means.

And its consequences are immediate and affect the Islamic states in ways that a nuclear strike against Israel doesn’t. Getting the Saudis to stand against Iran over an attack against Israel is a reach, regardless of the threat. Getting the Saudis worked up over cash flow while oil prices are near all-time highs does not need a great deal of persuading. …

If it can establish the threat, the United States goes from being an advocate against Iran to being the guarantor of very real Arab interests. And if the price Arabs must pay for the United States to keep the strait open is helping shut down the jihadist threat in Iraq, that is a small price indeed.

Read the whole thing.

StumbleUpon.com
2 Feedbacks on "The Strait of Hormuz Incident and U. S. Strategy"

Tomas Mac Muiris

Anyone who believes the speedboat-vs.-destroyer-and- frigate spectacle is anything but showbiz is too stupid to live.



cargosquid

Any Boghammer skipper that has the guts to “tease” a DDG deserves his bragging rights at the next goat orgy…..

That said, if they do something stupid, sink’em.



Comments

Please Leave a Comment!




Please note: Comments may be moderated. It may take a while for them to show on the page.













Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark