Iran has the ability to block the Strait of Hormuz “for a period of time,” and the U.S. would take action to reopen it, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey said.
“They’ve invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz,” Dempsey said in an interview airing today on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.”
Should Iran try to close Hormuz, the U.S. “would take action and reopen” the waterway, said Dempsey, President Barack Obama’s top military adviser.
Iran does indeed have the capability of closing the Straits of Hormuz. For a while, anyway.
The easiest method would simply be to use dhows to lay mines in the narrow waters. And it is something they’ve done before. The use of their Kilo class diesel electric subs, their large numbers of small craft, and other techniques would make shipping through the straits far too dangerous to be insured, and no one is shipping anything without insurance.
But it is a two-edged sword. First, Iran’s primary oil customer is China. And guess what? Iran ships its oil to China… via the straits. So they’d be cutting their own throats. Now, if the Iranians close the straits in response to an embargo of their crude shipments, they’d still be acting against their own best interests.
Even with the weak presidency of Obama, it is difficult to believe that a US, NATO, or regional response would be purely defensive (such as the use of minesweepers to remove mines from the shipping lanes).
Almost certainly, any response would target Iranian facilities ashore, and likely a wide variety of them. Not only naval facilities, but oil production, and gas refineries. Further likely targets would be air defense facilities, cruise missile batteries, command and control facilities and major infrastructure targets.
And while we’re at it, it would sound like a pretty good time to go ahead and strike at their nuclear production facilities. Might as well kill two birds with a whole lot of stones.
And if we were smart, we’d target the national leadership itself. If we’d shown any support to the popular uprisings against the regime two years ago, we would have an opportunity to fundamentally change one of the worst actors on the national stage today.
Still, I think we’re in the “jaw-jaw” stage, not the “war-war” stage.