Submitted by Richard Galustian…
The central question when reading this piece is would Iran’s closure of the Strait of Hormuz precipitate a nuclear attack by the U.S., no doubt in conjunction with Israel, and equally no doubt, coordinated by the Trump Neocons that are controlled by DC based AIPAC …and Israel?
The Strait of Hormuz is probably the most strategically important sea way ‘chokepoint’ in the world.
Nearly 20 million barrels of oil pass through the small gap at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in parts as narrow as 30 miles in places; and I mean 20 million barrels every day,24/7, 365 days a year.
For those that do not comprehend the magnitude of the above number, it must be understood that the total
world oil production (an average recently established for the first five months of 2019) is just over 80,000,000 barrels per day.
So put another way, She (Iran) controls ‘the chokepoint’ through which one fifth of all the world’s oil production daily passes.
If Iran closes, that ‘chokepoint’ in Her sea, the effect on the oil price and the world’s economy will be devastating; and Iran can do it; don’t believe the propaganda from the Pentagon and their American (and British) government(s) nor their ‘puppet’ media. Iran can do it in a heartbeat.
The Strait of Hormuz separates the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean which is why Oman is so very strategically important. The subject of a separate article!
Over the past 40 years the Strait has been a area of acute sensitivity. The largest conflict so far in the Strait was named by its instigator, America, Operation Praying Mantis, in April 1988.
At the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War (started September 1980 and ending July ‘88) Iran positioned several mines in order to cut off oil shipments, if necessary, from all the countries of the Gulf and of cause from Iraq. It was in fact the catalyst that caused the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
As stated earlier, in 1988, because a U.S. Naval warship hit one of these mines while it was escorting oil tankers, America’s response was to launch on the 18th April 1988 a fairly massive Military counter offensive under its designated name, Operation Praying Mantis. This operation attacked Iranian military and oil infrastructure in and around the mouth of the Strait and ventured into the Persian Gulf proper.
(A very relevant note that also needs a separate article is to mention the totally unprovoked attack by the USS Vincennes on an Iran Air civilian aircraft, killing all passengers, a war crime for sure, on the 3rd July 1988 …and that events connection with the PANAM Lockerbie disaster which occurred on the 21st December 1988; as I said, the subject of another to be written article).
When it was over, the U.S. had sunk or severely damaged over half of the Iranian Navy.
Both the U.S. and Iran continue to complain of each other’s Navy harassing the others in the Persian Gulf, a sea that irrefutable belongs to Iran.
This is what has led to Iran recently, not for the first time, threaten to close the Strait which would cut off a fifth of the world’s oil supply.
Just the very threat of shutting down the Strait to oil tankers has an immediate affect on the global oil price. If Iran ever did act on these threats the cost of oil would probably quickly rise to close to a $100 a barrel, disastrously affecting the world economy.
Ever since the U.S. Operation Praying Mantis, the Iranian military has focused its development of a force with the ability to take control of the Strait. They know that they cannot possibly match the firepower of the U.S. Navy. So over the past few decades they have turned to asymmetrical warfare.
Iran has two separate navies; the Navy and the Revolutionary Guards Navy. Between the two, Iran operates nearly two thousand boats. Most of these are smaller fast Swedish made vessels which would be used in ‘swarm attacks’ against larger U.S. naval ship formations. Although the boats are mostly lightly armed with 20mm calibre guns, the plan would be to simply to overwhelm the enemy with sheer numbers. That plan has, in essence, remained the same since the 1980s.
In terms of larger ships, Iran operates six British made frigates and three Corvettes. Each armed with over 40 anti-ship missiles; they have about three dozen actual ‘missile boats’. These are armed with Russian and Chinese made weapons.
The Iranians also operates about 30 submarines, about two thirds of which are midget submarines.
The most capable of their submarine force are the three Russian Kilo class subs. The Kilos are quicker, quieter and more heavily armed.
Iran also operate several mine laying craft that are stationed near the Strait and could be deployed very quickly. The Iranian coastline near the Strait is littered with a very large number, in the hundreds, of anti-aircraft guns from Switzerland (35mm), Sweden (40mm) and Russia (23mm) as well as surface to air and surface to surface (Silkworm) missile sites all positioned in nearby naval ports and air bases. Most of these are located in and around Bandar Abbas and Qeshm island with other sites spread across various much smaller islands near the mouth of the Straits, in the Persian Gulf.
The islands that used to belong to Abu Dhabi have them; those islands were ‘gifted’ to the Shah of Iran by the British Labour government of the day (in 1971) when Britain granted independence to all the little countries on the other side of the Gulf. To this day, the UAE claims ownership with a degree of legitimacy.
As for Iran’s Air Force, the majority of their aircraft are older and consists of an estimated 25 operational U.S. F14 fighters, supplied during the Shah’s time in 1977, and even older U.S. F4s and F5s, the total number bring estimated at over 120. There are some newer fighters namely some twenty five or so MIG29s, some French Mirage F1s and some Chinese F7s (which are copy’s of the MiG 21). Plus a range of COIN turboprop aircraft from Switzerland, Brazil and home produced estimated (each with 3 pods under each wing to carry armaments) at over a 100 in number.
Iran’s accomplished defense industries has also designed their own version of the S300. It still remains to be seen how effective that system is. They also have a number of older SAM versions and even a U.S. Hawk battery system supplied, it is thought along with Harpoon missiles courtesy of Ronald Reagan’s administration under the terms of the still fairly secret Iran-Conta deal.
As for the U.S., given that this imagined scenario is of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, unexpectedly the U.S. would only have whatever assets are in the region at that time to react with which is the U.S. 5th Fleet who are ‘sitting ducks’ in their location in Bahrain. The Americans say otherwise but that is BS.
US 5th fleet docked in Bahrain – Courtesy Press TV
The U.S. does maintain at least one carrier strike group in the region that has been involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. A carrier strike group typically consists of a carrier and four or five cruisers and or destroyers and a carrier air wing consisting of 40 to 48 F18 multi role fighters.
These U.S. ‘battle groups’ are confidently said to be invulnerable but that is propaganda from the Pentagon – a coordinated asymmetric attack by Iran could take out a carrier group.
It is assumed that there are at least a few US submarines and possibly a couple of converted Ohio class subs armed with over one hundred and fifty Tomahawk cruise missiles.
As for air bases the U.S. currently has aircraft in Bahrain, in Qatar, in the UAE, in Djibouti and in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Aircraft operate at these bases have the full spectrum and variety that you would expect from the USAF, including of course AWACS, drones of every description and B52, B1, B2 bombers and several stealth fighters.
All that said, if Iran close the Strait, it will be no easy task for America to reopen it. The U.S. would have to clear mines and eliminate Iranian naval vessels and anti-aircraft and ship missile batteries. Easy to say but not to do!
Despite being half a world away the US still operates a larger number of even more advanced aircraft and drones in the region. The U.S. would need to quickly degrade Iran’s air power involving even dogfights and attacks by cruise missiles on air bases.
The U.S. no doubt has come up with enhanced and effective countermeasures to ward off Iran’s Military but as with all counter measures, they do not work 100 percent. The nature of such beasts so to speak. If however the U.S. could significantly eliminate Iran’s Air Force and anti-aircraft batteries then the U.S. might make it possible to destroy Iran’s naval fleet.This would still prove to be a difficult task. The U.S. simultaneously would also have to conduct large scale anti submarine warfare missions to deal with the Iranian submarine threat. This again would prove very difficult due to the relatively large Iranian submarine fleet and missing even one sub could result in very heavy strategic losses.
Much of this scenario would rely on the location of the huge U.S. carrier strike group(s). If it was in the Persian Gulf during the closure of the Strait, the U.S. could potentially face several major humiliating losses, even losing a carrier at the hands of dozens and dozens of small boats, aircraft and anti ship missiles.
Swarms of fast attack craft (mostly around 15 metres in length), would attack, as stated earlier, in an asymmetric manner with aircraft.
However if the U.S. carrier grouping were out in the Gulf of Oman or in the northern Indian Ocean, the U.S. could keep its distance, minimizing its risk, while it surgically strikes at Iranian targets using probably cruise missiles.
To conclude the reopening the Strait of Hormuz, should it be closed, would be a very difficult task and could take several days maybe weeks.
Never forget all such military actions have larger consequences. The main one being the escalation into a much bigger war with Iran which no doubt the Israelis would enter; and remember the Israelis have nukes, and hundreds of them.
Over one billion dollars worth of oil passes through the Strait every day most of which goes to Asian countries like China Japan and India. And the oil is a vital source of income for the small Gulf countries not forgetting Saudi Arabia and Iraq. All will not want a clash between Iran and the U.S. there.
The closure of the Straits would quite simply be intolerable for all these countries.
The last word on this subject I leave to Iran’s top military commander Major General Mohammad Bageri who said recently:
“As oil and commodities of other countries are passing through the Strait of Hormuz, ours are also moving through it,” Bageri observed, declaring that “if our crude is not to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, others’ (crude) will not pass either.” Bageri went on to explain that “this does not mean (that we are going to) close the Strait of Hormuz. We do not intend to shut it unless the enemies’ hostile acts will leave us with no other option. We will be fully capable of closing it on that day.”
And the solution is?: Wisdom must be found in Washington to realise that the best way to defeat an enemy is to make him a friend. Unfortunately given the dominance of Neocon Zionists in Washington, one doubts we can expect to find wisdom amongst the like of Bolton and Pompeo, quite the contrary.
So in concluding, and particularly for those who think my conclusion that there exists an unbreakable military and political axis between U.S. and Israel to specifically provoke and destroy Iran…(and of course other countries as well, most especially Syria, but let’s stay with Iran) …and in order to further preempt any accusation about me personally, that I am being biased towards Iran, I end with this interesting 20 minutes discussion, that make a few very key and pertinent points on the subject, which was recorded in America on 22nd April and is available on YouTube:
‘Are the United States and Israel Entrapping Iran to Close the Strait of Hormuz?’
The only hope the world has to prevent a nuclear Armageddon in this and/or other global flash-points is the total removal of the Neocons in Washington and the election of a pro-peace candidate as President in 2020.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.