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Entries in Straits of Hormuz (2)


Iran Video: Scott Lucas on Al Jazeera - Tehran, China, & US Sanctions

I appeared on Al Jazeera English's Inside Story on Wednesday, with Professor Sadegh Zibakalam and former Iranian diplomat Mehrdad Khansari, to discuss US efforts for tightened Chinese sanctions on Tehran.

The headline is easy enough: Beijing will not publicly back the US effort. Far more interesting are the complexities beyond --- China's private position, which may include a continued decrease in supplies from Iran; the restrictions on Tehran's oil from other customers, such as Japan and the European Union; and Iran's internal economic situation.

It was interesting to me to hear the difference of approach on that latter issue --- for me, it is even more important than the US manoeuvres; for Professor Zibakalam, it seemed secondary to the regime's manipulation of "sanctions" to hold public support. And I also noted the very different perspectives among the panellists on the Straits of Hormuz issue and the prospect of war.

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Iran Feature: Why Tehran Can't Cut Off Oil Through The Straits of Hormuz (Gholz)

An illustration of General Hassan Firouzabadi, head of Iran's armed forces, blocking the Straits of Hormuz

Iranian military exercises apparently emphasize three weapons in the strait: small suicide boats, mobile antiship cruise missiles, and sophisticated sea mines. Using these tools, how hard would it be for Iran to disrupt the flow of oil?

The answer turns out to be: very hard. Iran would have to disable many of the 20 tankers that traverse the strait each day -- and then sustain the effort. Iran cannot rely on the psychological effects of a few hits. Historically, after a short panic, commercial shippers adapt rather than give up lucrative trips, even against much more effective blockades than Iran could muster today.

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