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Why Not Let Iran Close the Strait of Hormuz?

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Listening to all the pundits on talk radio here in New York this week, I got a feeling that I do not like. It was that same feeling I had right before we invaded Iraq (the second time around). Everyone seems to be beating a drum for a confrontation with the Iranians, and it probably has more to do with Iran’s nuclear program than with its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz; still everyone is acting like this is the most important 34-mile wide waterway in the world. Quite frankly, it is not, and threatening a war over it is American saber rattling of the most incredulous kind.

Depending on who is speaking, about twenty to thirty percent of the world’s oil supply goes through the strait each day. More importantly, it is the Iranians themselves who depend on this shipping lane to get their oil out to the world. If they close the strait, and no one does anything to stop it, then the Iranians are going to impact themselves just as much, if not more, than anyone else. Hungry for the money that oil brings and being economically crushed by sanctions, the Iranians are going to feel the pain that action brings and that will be all of their own doing.

America should not be the world’s police force in this (or quite frankly any other) matter. Many other countries will be affected by this closure, but there are alternatives for oil from Saudi Arabia and other nations, and it is perhaps a timely lesson to make big consumers of oil like China, Japan, and Europe start thinking about this for the long haul. It also wouldn’t hurt for oil producing countries in the gulf to look toward other means of getting oil out to the world, like pipelines to the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Oman, and the Red Sea.

The most important thing to take away from this is that America should not try to stop Iran if it takes this action. The world will see Iran as an aggressor, similar to Hitler attacking Poland or Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait. Once the action is taken, then it should be up to the United Nations to formulate a plan that includes many nations and not just one.

It is time for America to take a step back, especially during this presidential year. Any saber rattling, and make no mistake there is plenty going on involving everyone from presidential hopefuls to the guy on the street, is going to defeat the purpose of stopping an emboldened Iran from essentially blockading itself from the world. We should welcome rather than inhibit this action, for it will no doubt hasten the demise of the regime in Tehran faster than any American military maneuvers that will only stoke the flames of another war that we are unable to win.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    What would happen if we let Iran close the Strait of Hormuz? We should be asking what would happen to the world oil market – which is largely NOT and WILL NOT be regulated by governments – if all of a sudden one-third of our world’s oil supply was no longer available.

    Remember what happened the last two times the oil prices spiked because of speculators? Just imagine, then, what would those speculators do to oil and gas prices if Iran closed the Strait? What would happen to the economies of the West and Europe if suddenly our gas prices doubled (or more), and what would happen to the prices of all our food, of all the goods in the stores? What would happen to the stores when people could no longer afford to buy their products? What would happen to the owners and the employees of those stores? Do you really want to go there just so you can say, “We’re not the world’s policeman”?

    Sorry, Vic, but the world is too interdependent to have the luxury of ignoring it and hiding our heads in the sand.

  • C J

    Shutting the straits would force the administration to loosen enviromental regs for drilling in the gulf and for aquiring Canadian oil. Political self preservation would make this a demorcrat party priority.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thanks for the comments, Glen and CJ. I am not advocating ostrich politics but rather a realistic look at it. Why launch a military campaign that would take another five to ten years and cost lives and treasure? My thought is Iran couldn’t last a month with the strait closed, and either it would implode or the United Nations would involve a “coalition” of countries to handle it – not just Americans.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Riiiiiiiiiiight.

    BTW, exactly how is it that those environmental regs are somehow “holding America back”? You know, since we’re now an oil EXPORTER? Our biggest export is now OIL, C.J. Not planes, not movies, not democracy…oil. America’s producing more oil now than ever before.

    And whose administration did this happen under? Was it under Bush 43? Or Bush 41? Or Reagan? No, it was under the OBAMA administration – you know, the one with all those terrrrrrible job-killing environmental regulations (very, very few of which were passed after January 2009).

    Of course you wouldn’t know any if this, since it wouldn’t be in Fox News’ best interests to give you factual information. So be sure and ignore all this so you can be secure in your belief that Obama’s out to destroy America’s economy…..

  • Glenn Contrarian

    btw – the previous comment was towards #2

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Vic –

    You can’t say that Iran ‘wouldn’t last a month’ – how long has North Korea lasted? Tyrannies don’t always need money as long as they have religion (whatever it may be) and guns on their side.

    If Iran were to try to close the Strait, we’d knock out their missile sites and sink their navy and we’d never have to set foot on their soil. We’d also have the enthusiastic support of the rest of the Muslim world outside of Iran and Iraq since all the other nations are Sunni nations and they hate Shi’a Iran – and the more they’d support us if Iran were blocking much of the source of their income from leaving the Strait. And the Iranian leadership knows all of this.

    Just bear in mind that the Iranian leadership is not stupid. Ninety percent of what they say is political posturing for the masses and the religious leaders. They’re not going to nuke America or Israel. They’re not going to close the Strait – they might make an overt gesture or two, but nothing truly serious. They’ll continue to support a few terrorist groups, but that’s about it. Frankly, I’d be a lot more worried about the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan than I would about Iran.

  • Igor

    Since all oil is FUNGIBLE and traded in international free markets (the Dream, so they say, of conservatives), and,

    since the USA only uses 20% of all the oil mined in the world, each year, and

    since Hormuz bottlenecks only 20% of all world oil,

    the USA is only looking at a 4% impact on it’s oil supply.

    Therefore, one can conclude that it would be folly for the USA to base an important Hormuz decision on oil supplies. Especially since absolute US oil consumption is decreasing every year, and the US RELATIVE portion of all world oil is also decreasing.

    More and more this is becoming a Chinese and Indian problem as their portion of world oil increases every year.

    So the USA could easily walk away from Hormuz and let Somebody Else slap Iran around. Guess who that Somebody Else might be?

    But the USA has assiduously been the Guardian Of The Seas for many years, certainly since 1945.

    We are reluctant to diminish that position, even if it means mostly helping other nations, so we have to seriously face up to this issue. Probably the best way to do that is with a multilateral effort thru the UN.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    It’s not the actual supply – it’s the speculation. Speculators bid on supply, on future problems or benefits. If Iran really begins making moves to close the Strait, the speculators will start bidding up the price of oil, and it will be reflected in everything we buy. Remember, all oil is traded on the international free market – and it’s THERE that the prices would skyrocket, and it would be reflected almost immediately in our supermarkets and malls and gas pumps.

  • Igor

    8-Glenn: what you say is true, and people would do well to pay attention to the fact that oil is traded freely in international markets (which makes it fungible) and it’s true that the market discounts the future so speculators will give us an early taste of prices through buy/sell options, but we still have a problem figuring out what the pricing effects of supply reductions would be.

    We have to know more about the supply and demand curves so that we can determine the equilibrium point. In the old days that was pretty easy because the demand curve was very inelastic and looked like a straight vertical line, a brick wall. But much has changed, partly because new first world countries like India and China now have to be accounted for (greater demand, but also government subsidies and controls that change the demand curve, which now may be non-ergodic and exhibit hysteresis effects; and then there’s the effect of US decreases in demand from conservation and alternate energy).

    The bottom line is that the Hormuz problem is more significant to China and India where demand is increasing than it is to the US where demand is actually falling. Score one for the Greens and score one for the old-time US oil policy which saw it was better to buy cheap foreign oil than burn up our own limited supplies, in other words “Don’t drill, baby, don’t do it”.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    China is a first-world nation only in terms of manufacturing and construction…but not in terms of standard of living – get outside of the megalopoli of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and so forth, and you’ll see a very different China…and just how wide the gulf is between the rich and poor there.

    India, btw, is not a first-world nation at all. Not at all. Sure, there’s some very rich places there, but the same can be said for almost any third-world nation.

    The difference between a first-world nation and a third-world nation is the standard of living of the people – and the standard of living for the normal Chinese citizen is significantly below that of the normal resident of a first-world nation.

    Back to the oil. Let’s say for a moment that we pull back and let China and India step up. For one thing, nature abhors a vacuum. Secondly, India wouldn’t step up because they cannot compete internationally with China – they simply don’t have the economic (much less the military) wherewithal. That would mean that China would wield much more influence over the Strait of Hormuz, and thus in the Muslim world…and even if America by herself no longer depends on oil from the Middle East, Europe DOES. And that would essentially give China a greater level of influence over Europe…and we’re isolated even further. And all one has to do to see how important Europe is to America is to look at how much the troubles in Greece – Greece! – is giving OUR stock market! BTW, Iceland’s troubles also gave our stock market fits a few years back.

    No, Igor, the world is much more interdependent than it ever was before…but someone will always be the top dog, the most influential nation. It can either be us, or it can be China. Your choice.

  • Igor

    IMO the US is the only country equipped to deal with a Hormuz blockade. But I think it’s to our great advantage to get others interested enough to back us and even provide financing, ala, Desert Storm.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No, we’re not – France or England could do it as well…and so could Japan, for that matter, since they also have Arleigh Burke-class destroyers built by us and sold to them.

  • Cannonshop

    France, England, Russia, China’s getting there-they’re building Carriers now, and developing their expeditionary reach with all that economic power they’ve been developing since the 1970’s.

    Not that China would-Blockades are expensive, but it hardly matters-the only advantage Iran could gain in blockade of the Straits, is if they can get the rest of OPEC to buy off on it-if they irritate the Saudis enough, all that they really get, is increased production to offset the loss on the market, and a loss of critical income.