Thursday, February 17, 2005

U.S. Cites Iran Threat in Key Strait

David S. Cloud, The Wall Street Journal:
Iran has acquired the military capability to temporarily halt ship traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf choke point through which an estimated 40% of the world's oil supply passes, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Interruption of the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf would have an immediate effect on the world economy.

Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that Iran augmented its small naval forces last year by purchasing North Korean torpedo and missile boats as well as small submarines. As a result, "we judge Iran can briefly close the Strait of Hormuz, relying on a layered strategy using predominately naval, air and some ground forces," Adm. Jacoby said yesterday in prepared remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee. ...

Tehran's naval purchases from North Korea buttress the Bush administration argument that the two regimes Mr. Bush once described as members of an "axis of evil" constitute the most significant U.S. national-security threats.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, in part to ensure the Strait of Hormuz -- a two-mile wide channel with Iran on one shore and Oman and the United Arab Emirates on the other -- remains open. Any move by Tehran to bring pressure on the West by closing the waterway, even temporarily, would invite rapid U.S. retaliation and also cost Tehran, which relies heavily on revenue from exporting its own oil through the strait. ...

Along its side of the strait, Iran has long deployed missiles, which it used against tankers during its 1980-88 war with Iraq. Its offshore oil platforms also can be adapted for military use, said Chuck Nash, a retired U.S. Navy captain, at a news conference earlier this month. ...

Write to David S. Cloud at
The article fails to mention that the main purpose of this "naval" attack capability is to discourage the US from any provocative moves against Iran.

Iran is confident it can destroy significant portions of fleet in the Persian gulf and perhaps more importantly threaten to sink a vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, which is only 50 feet deep at points, and thus shut down all traffic out of the Persian Gulf for months. This is the Iranian answer to the US threat of a naval blockade of Iran.