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Iran, the Straits of Hormuz and “Armageddon”

Iran is supposedly being sternly warned that attempting to close the Straits of Hormuz will not be tolerated.  The Iranians have put forward a bill in their Parliament which would require warships from any nation desiring to transit the Straits to get the permission of Iran first.

Of course, the Straits are considered by the rest of the world as “international waters” while the premise of the Iranians is they’re national waters subject to the control of Iran.

Most experts believe that this has been precipitated by sanctions imposed on Iran by much of the world, but especially the Western powers.  Closing the Straits of Hormuz would be viewed by most of them as an act of war.

So, per the New York Times, a secret channel has been opened with Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which he has been informed the US would consider any such attempt to close the Straits as “a red line” that would provoke a response.

DoD has made the position publically official:

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this past weekend that the United States would “take action and reopen the strait,” which could be accomplished only by military means, including minesweepers, warship escorts and potentially airstrikes. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told troops in Texas on Thursday that the United States would not tolerate Iran’s closing of the strait.

So the line is drawn.  The hand is closed into a fist with a warning.  Bluff or promise?  Will Iran test it to see?

Here’s why some think they won’t:

Blocking the route for the vast majority of Iran’s petroleum exports — and for its food and consumer imports — would amount to economic suicide.

“They would basically be taking a vow of poverty with themselves,” said Dennis B. Ross, who until last month was one of President Obama’s most influential advisers on Iran. “I don’t think they’re in such a mood of self sacrifice.”

Of course fanatics often don’t think or reason in rational terms, but Ross has a point.

Meanwhile, as the sanctions continue to bite, Iran’s president is finishing up a South American swing to shore up support (and resources one supposes) for his regime from the usual suspects – Chavez, Ortega and their band of merry socialists.  China is also a player in all of this, although not a particularly enthusiastic one.  Iran exports 450,000 barrels a day of oil, which is now not being bought by Europe or the US.  So it sees an opportunity here to up its share of that total.  John Foley thinks China will fudge on sanctions, at least partially.  That, of course, could extend the drama.

And while all of this is going on, Iranian nuclear scientists are blowing up pointing to some sort of effort by some nation(s) or group to slow and frustrate what everyone believes is Iran’s push for nuclear weapons.  That, by the way, may be part of the discussions in South America if you get my drift.

Don’t know if you noticed recently, but the Doomsday Clock has added a minute, the first since 2007 when it subtracted one.  We’re no 4 figurative minutes from “Armageddon”.  Iran certainly figures in the move.

So far, the “reset” is going just swimmingly, isn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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16 Responses to Iran, the Straits of Hormuz and “Armageddon”

  • Since we roughed them up in the late 80′s they must think something has changed.
    They should know better, even Obama isn’t going to let them close the Straits of Hormuz
    The best they can hope for is we’ll act with more restraint in blowing things up to reopen it.

    • Off that the President’s whose line in the sand I would cross if I was and outsider, Obama is at the top of the list. Knowing that Obama is petty and vendictive, he would be behind Clinton and Carter to me. But an Iran may not realize this.

    • Sensible viewpoint looker and I’d guess accurate.

      • @CaptinSarcastic As much as I dislike his policies, I can’t believe he’d let it go uncontested. Color me extremely shocked if he does. He’ll do what he needs to do to keep the straits open, and he won’t have to pander to most of his supporters to do it. He has a ready made excuse for them, if they whine too much, that the world wants the straits kept open for purely economic reasons, and he’ll be right too.

        • I agree, you could hate him and think he would make the wrong call if he could, or the right call for the wrong reasons, but he has all the bases covered here and it is an easy call. The Straits of Hormuz will stay open and if we have to spend .0001% of our artillery to sink the Iranian navy, it’s a much easier call than an unannounced military incursion into a supposed ally’s soveriegn territory.

  • Of the list of Presidents whose line in the sand I would cross, Obama would be at the top if I was an outsider. But knowning that Obama is Petty and vendictive when upstaged, offended or ignored, I would actually put him behind Carter and Clinton. Iran might have the uninformed outsider view of Obama, though.

  • On the other side of the ledger, Iran could use any “altercation” with the West to help quell troubles at home. Then don’t discount the “crazy” factor. Lastly, any “altercation” with the West could open the doors to taking out potential avenues of counter-strike (i.e. Iran’s nuclear facilities).
    In chess terms, Iran is paying too much attention to the knights of the West while a rook is sneaking up the board.

  • On their secret line to Khameini the administration said. “By the way, could you time that war thingie for sometimes in late October?”

  • As to your last sentence, do you honestly blame Obama for this? ODS. The one error I think you make is to assign a “crazy” factor to Iranian leadership. Analysis of foreign policy looks at actions over rhetoric, and Iranian actions have been ruthless, Machiavellian and intensely rational/self-interested. They’ve pushed as far as they could get away with, and backed down when they had to. Their goal is clearly to become a regional power with ties to China, Russia and friendly Arab states (Iraq and Syria). They keep Hezbollah as leverage on Israel (if Israel attacks Iran, Iran can make Israel’s life difficult), but don’t trust Hezbollah or give it enough help to allow it true independence.

    Also, the leadership is very good at ‘wagging the dog.’ They know that the public is not all that supportive of the clerical regime and fear that the next election will be harder to control. Baiting the West and playing the victim generates a rally around the flag effect and hurts the opposition. That also makes it tricky for us — if we are too provocative, we could undercut a movement for change in Iran that is stronger than a lot of people realize (in fact, the regime’s actions tell me they’re feeling the heat on the domestic front.)

    This is another example of Obama engaged in what I think any foreign policy analyst would have to say has been a surprisingly effective and competent foreign policy for a first term President without a lot of experience. I suspect this is because he surrounded himself with competent aides and listens to them (whereas President Bush listened to the neo-cons who turned out to be dead wrong in their views on US power and the Mideast — President Bush smartly shoved them aside in 2006 and turned to the realists, making his foreign policy quite good after 2006).

    • Erb’s illiteracy is showing again. The last sentence is just pointing out that Obama’s much-hyped ‘reset’ didn’t accomplish anything.

      Obama’s only foreign policy ‘successes’ have been when he acted directly opposite to his ‘Everything Bush did was wrong or illegal’ proposals that Erb supported when he was campaigning. Proposals like immediately closing Gitmo, a hastened pullout from Iraq, claiming the surge was a failure, having full Congressional approval for entering a war, respecting other countries’ sovereignty, etc.

      Bush’s foreign policy didn’t change after 2006; Erb is just ignorant of the difference between strategy and tactics. Every week, more news comes from Iraq, Libya and Egypt proving that Bush’s views were correct all along.

      • @CT Phil Yeah, but since Erb is always right (ask him) whatever is necessary to reach that point is done. Even if it means denying he ever said something contrary the first time around.
        Generally though he doesn’t slip up on that, and he says profound things like, “it could be worse, but it might be better too, and I’m not being indecisive”. Summed up with “watch and learn”.

      • @CT Phil “The last sentence is just pointing out that Obama’s much-hyped ‘reset’ didn’t accomplish anything.”
        He looks for ODS in everything, he thinks it gives him a moral high ground, a great deal of his complaining is based on projection.

        • I know Erb will spew anything that supports his conclusion, but often times the replies deal with his overall narrative rather than whatever disproven assumption he bases a particular comment on. I just like to make sure his false claims get pointed out for any first-time or occasional readers.

    • There is nothing radical, or even controversial in this point of view. It would probably be echoed by every living former and the current Secretary of State. The only thing surprising is the vitriol with which the well known understanding of ccircumstances is greeted with here.
      I think if Scott said the sky is blue and water is wet, he would be greeted derision for ignorance of dry forms of water and various other shades that color the sky.
      Looker said it more succintly, but Scott added more detail, but both are likely correct.
      Iran doesn’t probably doesn’t really see much difference between Bush and Obama, perhaps a mistake, but just as we (the US and specifically the Bush Administration) did not see the difference between the reformist president in power in Iran when they made the ill timed Axis of Evil condemnation. If I were prone to conspiracy theories (I’m not), I would think that the clerical rulers of Iran begged Bush to threaten Iran to in order to help them shore up there power and prevent a popular liberal revolution that was in the making in the early oughts.

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