Over at Austin Bay's excellent blog (he's fairly fresh off a tour in Iraq), he points to another major threat from the Ragheads that conveniently went under-reported by the Neville Chamberlain Media. Iran threatened the US this week with a cut-off of oil exports to force us to our knees. Bay points to the Persian Journal website's speculation that this threat was a reference to the Straights of Hormuz. Bay notes:
The Straits of Hormuz connect the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. The Strait is a bottleneck for oil tankers. From 35% to 40% of the worlds crude oil shipments passes through Hormuz. In 1988 Joe Balkoski and I collaborated on a wargame titled Light Division: The Straits of Hormuz. 3W (World Wide Wargaming) published the game, and it is now out of print.
The game is still a useful tool for considering US, Western, and for that matter, Arab and Eastern (Japanese?) military options if Iran closes the Straits. Yes, you could see a Coalition of the Industrialized form quite quickly if Iran tries to close the Straits of Hormuz using mines, anti-ship missiles, artillery, or any suite of weapons.
I dont think Iran will try it such talk is huff and bluff.
But geography can be tantalizing and sometimes fanatics move from words to war. Perhaps a few of Tehrans more belligerent mullahs believe the US is spread thin by Iraq and cant handle closure of the Straits. These men are wrong. The US Navy isnt tied down in Iraq. Supported by naval and air forces, a Marine brigade and an Army airborne brigade can take Hormuz.
Moreover, risk-taking Iranian mullahs fascinated by the Hormuz Option had better poll of their own military commanders and get an honest assessment of morale. Revolutionary Guards attacking US forces will have a very short life expectancy and that will leave fewer thugs to oppress the populace in Tehran. The Iranian people know whats going on in the world, and the big story (one even the NY Times now appreciates) is the freedoms surge in the Middle East. Put US troops in Hormuz and presto, Free Iran has a toehold.
Threatening to choke the worlds oil pipeline is one thing the threat begets headlines, spikes oil prices, expresses a certain degree of macho bravado, why, it might even appeal to that narrow spectrum of humanity that hates SUVs more than dictators. But actually carrying out this threat is foolish politics. For the Iranian mullahs it amounts to tying their own nooses. The Straits wont choke they will.
I think one point not mentioned here is the fact that the tactical options described here are only available to us because of our proximity to Iran, made possible by the overthrow of Saddam. Bay also is wise to point out that, while the Marines and Army are quite busy in Iraq, our Navy is fully capable of obliterating any foe in or near water, anywhere. The speed with which the Navy responded to the Tsunami crisis should be a good measuring stick of its' abilities world-wide.
It should be very interesting to see how the various Despots of the Islamic world react to the sweeping changes coming to fruition in the region. We are likely to see a full range of reactions, from Egypt and Saudi Arabia's tolken democratic moments to Lebanon's thrilling demonstrations to the mad Mullah's wacky Nuke game. In the midst of so much promise, one thing is certain: things will probably get really bloody before we see a sea change over there.