January 8, 2012 – An Iranian warship fires during exercises in the Gulf of Oman that heightened regional tensions: “This is the strategy of the Islamic Republic in countering such threats,” Revolutionary Guard deputy commander Ali Ashraf Nouri was quoted as saying by the Khorasan daily, according to the AP. Iranian politicians have issued similar threats in the past, the AP added, but this is the strongest statement yet by a top commander in the security establishment.
That followed Friday’s announcement by Tehran that it plans military maneuvers in the strait. Only days earlier, the Iranian navy had concluded exercises in the nearby Gulf of Oman (pictured above).
The new maneuvers, planned for the coming weeks, are potentially more menacing. They will take place in and around the strait itself and will involve Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps navy, which is responsible for coastal defense in the strait and the Persian Gulf. Revolutionary Guard naval commanders have greater leeway than those of Iran’s regular navy, and favor guerrilla-style tactics, including swarms of fast-moving attack craft, mines and mobile antiship missiles.
“Today the Islamic Republic of Iran has full domination over the region and controls all movements within it,” Admiral Ali Fadavi, naval commander for the Revolutionary Guard, said in remarks reported by the Fars news agency.
In the past two weeks, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, to restrict foreign warships, and to ban a U.S. aircraft carrier from the strait. Defense analysts and Iran experts say there are reasons to worry. Just as a U.S. oil embargo in the early 1940s pushed a hostile Japan into miscalculations that proved suicidal, U.S. economic pressure on Iran could provoke a desperate response from a regime that feels it is under siege, said Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute.
Officials and experts who have studied the chance of conflict and potential U.S. responses said any clash most likely would take place at sea. Iran has embarked on an ambitious naval-expansion plan meant to give it the muscle to be a stronger regional power.
Tension this time could turn violent in any of several ways, experts say. Iranian officials have proposed legislation barring foreign warships from sailing through the strait without permission.
Iran also could use its own boats and planes to harass oil tankers passing through the strait, much as it did during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Finally, Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz entirely. The surest way to do that would be to mine the two-mile-wide shipping channels through which tanker traffic passes.
If Iran did lay the mines, it would force the U.S., U.K. and allies to laboriously clear the strait, using minesweepers to clear the waterway. This would take months and send crude oil prices to over $200 a barrel and gasoline to over $7 a gallon, plunging the world into Great Depression II and potential wide-spread armed conflict in the Middle-East.
Just as the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand, at the start of World War I, lead the nations of the earth down the slippery slop of unseen consequences, which morphed into all out global conflict using chemical warfare; so to could any provocations in the Middle-East. The danger of spreading such a clash to Israel, and neighboring nations that have threatened for half a century to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, is very real.
The start of the year 2012 marks the beginning of events that will transform the world. It seems that we have not yet learned the lessons of the 20th century, which were filled with the horrors of war, famine, pestilence and death. The “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” are fast approaching.
The Master of Disaster