A string of recent U.N. and European Union sanctions have had a debilitating effect on the Iranian economy. The Iranian ruling regime has repeatedly warned that further sanctions, particularly those aimed at their oil industry will result in the closure of the Strait of Hormuz by the Iranian Navy. The strait, a critical choke point for nearly 40% of the world’s crude oil, has often been the subject of threats from the Iranian regime and military. However, concerns over Iran’s actions are at an all time high after members of the European Union agreed to a fresh round of sanctions, aimed at Iran’s nuclear program, which would include a trade embargo on Iranian oil.
In response to the proposed sanctions, lawmaker Mohammad Ismail Kowarsi, deputy head of Iran’s Committee on National Security, proclaimed that the Strait “would definitely be closed if the sale of Iranian oil is violated in any way.” Another lawmaker, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh declared that not only was closure increasingly probable, but such a move was well within Iran’s sovereign rights.
Such heated language has gotten the attention of many in Washington including the United States Navy. While the Navy usually has one carrier task force in the Persian Gulf, it currently has two of its nuclear powered, Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS John C. Stennis, patrolling these increasingly hostile waters.
While the saber rattling is a cause for concern, it seems incredibly unlikely that Iran would be foolish enough to actually close the Strait. According to a Washington Post article, nearly 80% of Iran’s oil revenue comes from oil exports. By closing the straight, Iran would effectively subjugate its citizens to a life of poverty and economic disarray. Moreover, such a brazen move would most certainly result in a military response by the United States, European nations, and Israel.
In light of the proposed E.U. sanctions, and the vitriol coming from Iran, is there legitimate cause for concern regarding the Strait of Hormuz and our supply of crude oil from the Middle East? Should the United States increase its naval presence in the Persian Gulf or proceed with the status quo and avoid possible confrontations? Can Iran afford, both economically and politically, to force a closure of the Strait?
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