How long can Iran keep the Straits of Hormuz closed?


How long can Iran keep the Straits of Hormuz closed?
by Ari Siletz

Looking for an informed analysis of a scenario where Iran closes the Straits of Hormuz, I found a paper by George Washington University’s Caitlin Talmadge. The young political science professor--who wrote the paper in 2008 when she was a PhD candidate at MIT--once talked down a Toyota dealer from $14000 to $9000, so I figured she must be savvier than most because I usually pay what the dealer asks for and thank him for being my buddy. Still, I had figured out all by myself that the military challenge in blocking the Hormuz is all about naval mines and anti-ship cruise missiles (honar kardam!).

In her detailed analysis of Iran’s military hardware and likely deployment strategy versus U.S. countermeasures Dr. Talmadge’s optimistic estimate for clearing the straits is 37 days. She allows 9 days to eliminate the anti-ship missile threat and another 28 days for U.S. ships to deal with the mines without having to worry about missiles raining down on them.  Her most pessimistic forecast is 112 days—72 days for the missiles and 40 days for disabling enough of Iran's naval mines.

Why are these numbers important? Because the world economy likely knows these figures too--or some number in the ballpark. If Iran can keep the Hormuz straits blocked for longer than a nominal 112 days, U.S. allies will begin to lose faith in her as the guarantor of the lifeblood of their economies, energy. This loss of confidence would threaten to unravel the U.S. global empire. The risk is tiny, but the price may be more than the U.S. can afford. So, any U.S. decision maker would hesitate to attack Iran, weighing the low risk against the high price.

One interesting deduction that Dr. Talmadge makes is that Iran likely does not have the Russian SA 300 (SA-10 Grumble) missile defense system. She bases this on the fact that one of Iran’s deterrence strategies is to boast about military hardware. Firing one or two SA 300s during a war exercise would cause the U.S. to reassess how long it would take to open up the Hormuz Straits, causing her to back off for a while. Yet Iran has not used anything like the SA 300 in its war games, even though this system can seriously hamper the ability of U.S. aircraft to take out Iran’s anti-ship missile batteries--while the clock ticks against the 112 days.

Dunno about Dr. Talmadge’s analysis of the SA 300 issue. For one thing, Russia’s claim that the ordered missiles have not been delivered to Iran is a matter of debate. Furthermore, Iran is said to have acquired the missiles from Belarus (who denies it), and Iran may have even developed a similar system on her own. The latter scenario seems unlikely to many experts, but on the other hand it seemed unlikely that Iran had the technology to capture a U.S. aerial drone. Yet Iran has done just that, or has made it appear so. Besides, not every piece of hardware can be displayed for the purpose of deterrence; some things have to be kept as surprises in case war breaks out.

In the conclusion to her analysis Dr. Talmadge seems worried:

“Iran’s limitations, such as the command and control and targeting challenges it would face in littoral [coastal]  warfare, are not often appreciated [to find out what these limitaions are, you can read the paper]. But its strengths are often overlooked as well…Likewise, although the United States retains the world’s best conventional military, its past experiences hunting mobile targets from the air and conducting MCM [mine countermeasures] operations in the littorals do not inspire confidence that confrontation in the strait would end quickly.. Given these realities, sanguine assurances about the course and outcome of military conflict in the strait seem unjustified at best, and dangerous at worst.”

Makes sense to me!



Totally unnecessary note: This writing is about just one aspect of the possible Iran-U.S. military confrontation, namely the closing of the Straits of Hormuz. 


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Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Brilliant idea

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


This whole closing got me thinking of a great idea. USA; Iran and the Arab nations should all get together and build a giant gate. This gate is fitted with turbines and goes all the way to bottom of the Hormuzd straits.

Then when tide goes up you close the gates. Then when it goes down run turbines. It will generate massive amounts of tide power thus making the oil obsolete. But the nations around Persian Gulf still make money so does USA.

Oon Yaroo

BacheShiraz, IRR tried to close the Hormuz ...but...

by Oon Yaroo on

the door hinges were too rusty and it wouldn't close...

They sent a couple of bacheh pasdar to get 10W30 motor oil to lubricate the door and maybe they can push it to close....!



Iran closing the straights of Hormuz

by BacheShirazi on

Personally I don't think they are going to do it. Closing the straights of Hormuz is a definite way for Iran to anger Russia and China. Both of these countries also hold a degree of soft power in Iran, and they will use the influence they have to prevent Iran from taking any action to cloe the straights of Hormuz.


Iran might still do it, but it would be at the cost of losing two big allies. 

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


But I got the Persian right. Yes should have been Persia Gaffe :-)


VPK: typo Persian Gulf, you

by alimostofi on

VPK: typo Persian Gulf, you have typed Guff. lol

Ali Mostofi



Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Persian Gulf

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I have a policy of ignoring anyone who does not use "Persian Gulf". Because it is proof that the person is either

  • Ignorant therefore not worth reading.
  • Buying the BBC garbage and hence not worth reading.
  • Deliberately misusing the name; hence biased and not worth reading.

Yes Bahmani I know how terrible IRI is.  It is not a great discovery that Islamic Republic is despicable. I knew this from the day it was created. I have said many times nobody in their right mind will fight to retain it.

Plus I know the power of US military and have mentioned it myself many times. Only a delusional person would doubt it. But until you get the name "Persian Guff" right I won't bother reading one more line of your posts.



Bahmani: typo Persian Gulf.

by alimostofi on

Bahmani: typo Persian Gulf and they are Hezis not Iranian.

Ali Mostofi




I give the us 4 days to reopen the straits

by bahmani on

Last time, during the Iran-Iraq, the us destroyed half of iran's navy in one day, so I give them 4 days to completely destroy it this time. Since Iran needs jobs more than a navy, I give them my official iranian approval, and blessing. I also officially would like to ask all my fellow Iranian sailors to immediately walk off the job and go home to their families. Now if only I had any official power to make anY of this happen. Anyone that thinks this fight is worth fighting for just to make some idiot politicians feel good about making the US back down, sadly deserves what comes next.

This is not a principle, this is about hostage taking, the most detestable namardi act any country or person can commit, the lowest of the low. Instead of fulfilling the promise that eslam was supposed to deliver, these sadist and sinners, have lost sight of their purpose. Which means they never intended any holy redemption in the first place, this was all a grand lie and swindle.

Now anyone who supports the continued game, deserves, again sadly, what consequences the us metes out. Any Iranian that takes up arms to defend this government is only defending sin and the swindle. Iran is wrong. Iran does not deserve to have nukes, even if pakistan has them. Iran has no business interfering in any country. If the Arabs don' t help the Palestinians, why on god's earth should Iran come to their aid?

All of this leading up to this retarded threat to block oil from the gulf, only serves to show how deluded, retarded, and wrong Iran is. Anyone who even thinks to defend any of this, is an utter idiot. We all need to call these folks out and make sure they hear how stupid that are.


Hormuz is not gonna be closed

by Rea on

It's all for domestic consumption.

I shout, you shout. But as you have bigger guns, I shut up. That's what it is, from the kitchen perspective. ;o)

PS. for an MIT PhD candidate (wow, sounds awesome), that paper is rather surprising by its narrow focus and lack of a wider picture thereof.



by Hooshang Tarreh-Gol on

Well, if it's more than a coincidence , please enlighten us and explain what is it?

As if it really matters, at all. And also lets do everything to lower the level of discussion in here.

How in the world anyone could put Ari and Abarmard on the same level, just bugles the mind.

Just in case the facetious tone of my 'query' didn't come through:

Questioning individual's motives and packing them up in one bundle like this, is a disgrace.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Caitlin Talmadge paper

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Well I finally got through the whole 116 pages of the Talmadge paper. A pretty impressive paper well researched but missing key point. I want to credit her for using the right name "Persian Gulf" in the paper.

The paper published in 2008 gives detailed analysis of mines; missiles and so on. But it has huge gaps in how world may respond to blocking of Hormuz.

I will include these below:

  1. Most important it does not address American prior plans. As others said America has surely considered this and planned for it.
  2. It assumes any fight will be limited to Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz. But why should America not hit back where IRI is most vulnerable? Including IRI military and economic assets in other parts of Iran. 
  3. Much of the analysis if based on destroying the missiles. What if America decided to destroy the IRI leadership instead? Go right to Tehran and other major places and cut the head of the snake.
  4. It does not take into account other nations affected. Including Europe and China. Both of whom want to keep oil flowing. There will be intense global pressure on IRI to back down.
  5. It ignores the possibility of a multi-national occupation of the region. In order to keep the Straits of Hormuz open. While Americans do not support ground troops now they will if it means rescuing thier jobs.
  6. It neglects the economic impact on IRI. How is the regime to survive without oil or in fact any imports.
  7. It assumes there will be no internal dissent worth worrying about.
  8. Ignores possibility of rebellion by minorities timed for this. Provoked by USA as a distraction.
  9. Paper talks about IRI blocking the Straits of Hormuz as a  response to a nuclear attack. But it leaves out the opposite meaning IRI first blocking the Straits of Hormuz. Then US using tactical nuclear weapons as a response.


The last one in particular will have a devastating impact on Iranian morale. Given the importance of oil the global community may turn a blind eye to it. If this happens there will be massive turmoil in Iran.

Remember flight 655 and the world reaction to it. No global sympathy was the turning point which forced IRI to back down and make peace.

In summary the analysis is great if you go with the "limited conflict" assumption. Go beyond it and view the whole picture you get a different story.


It's more than a

by vildemose on

It's more than a coincidence that Ari and abarmard "assume" that IRI can close the strait of hormoz even for one day and write about it on the same day...hmmmmmmmmmmmm

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Bahram G


by Bahram G on

The US just announced a deal to sell Iraq eleven billion dollars worth of arms. That's an awful lot of oil for Iraq to parley over for the weapons of death it is buying. Would they loan a few of the goodies to their Shia brotheren in the IRI? My guess, they wouldn't. Why, because the iraqis have a deep hatred for Iranians, Shia or not. I believe Iranians feel the same way about Iraqis. The antipathy is bilateral, deep, and longstanding.

Now, the Saudies with deeper pockets and greater fear of the mullahs are buying 30 billion dollars of American weapons, mostly aircrafts. The camel Jackys now like to drive air conditioned airborn vehicles instead of those ornery beasts their ancestors have. So how the mullahs are going to manage filling their bottomless pockets, tossing a few crumbs to the masses of the MSTAZEFIN, and arming the country with anything other than museum pieces. The kind of weapons that look good marching down the streets of Tehran while in effect being coffins for our HAMVATANAAN? Would this insanity come to an end? Would the decent Iranians wake up, get rid of the mullahs and start being smart not picking fights with any and all, just live and let live? I can always wish.

No war with the US. No war with anybody. We have many other urgent living needs to squander our funds and get our people killed in wars.


Oil Prices Rocket and we

by alimostofi on

Oil Prices Rocket and we Iranians would be the happiest in the world.

Scenario 1

It is all a load of bull, and now that the Saudis got their new jet fighters, it will all blow over.

Scenario 2

There is a power struggle amongst the Hezis, and a bunch of IRGC nutters get caught dropping off some mines. At that point in time the normal ex Royal Navy kicks in and keeps the calm. Royalists will get the glory.

Scenario 3

No normal navy kicks in, and the IRGC gets away with mines. They get the glory (boo, arrgh!!). Oil prices rocket, and we will all make new friends in petrol station queues (lines if you are American). Then it will be like Panama Canal, as the US fleet will get emergency funding, Romney gets elected and hey all those oil sands in North America will look cheap.

Scenario 4

Thinking about this one. Lol.

Ali Mostofi



Shazde Asdola Mirza

Khomeini tried to shut the Strait of Hormuz in 1988, but ...

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

... they stuffed him full of "poison wine"!

Oon Yaroo

Dear Arj, It's actually Koons Tysons Toyota....!:-)

by Oon Yaroo on


Divaneh: China is being

by alimostofi on

Divaneh: China is being forced to make a huge decision here. Or should I say Wal-Mart Apple and others who benefit from the cheap oil to China's industrial zones. Yeah can you imagine the price of goods out of China once there is no oil for the US slavery going on there. Look up Foxconn.

Ali Mostofi




Please do not forget the imports

by divaneh on

Please bear in mind that a lot of imports to Iran will also go through the same straight and that includes food. Now perhaps the nation can live without the food but what can we do without Chinese prayer mats.

Oon Yaroo

"...some things have to be kept as surprises...."

by Oon Yaroo on

And that goes both ways!

What if US through its information gathering apparatus managed to know a priori that IRR was going to attempt in closing down Hormuz!?

And immediately followed by a series of preemptive srtikes against the IRR threats using its assets in that area!

Time after time, folks make the same error of judgment to UNDERESTIMATE the power of the US of A!

And, time after time, they pay a heavy price for it!




by Arj on

Was that Toyota dealer Mr. Arbabsiar by any chance?!! :)


Ari: Iranians will not close

by alimostofi on

Ari: Iranians will not close The Straits of Hormuz. Hezis will. Big difference.

Ali Mostofi




Thanks Ari

by Abarmard on

I did read that article sometime ago. Reaching the objective is the key in this scenario, something that gets forgotten or lost in many arguments. I just wrote a blog about it.

Happy New Year.


one day

by MRX1 on

give and take. At the end of the day you are going to loose to a supperior force. IRI does not have an effective airforce which is a key in modern war fare (forget about uessless 40 year old aircrafts) and the ships they have are old as well. without an adequate air support their ships will become targets for practice.( that's assuming any navy person is fool enough to take this challange )this is just hot air and rajaz khani that's all. It will end bad for IRI, but then again  may be imam zaman will intervene last minute and turn things around!


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


  • HTG: khamenehi and sepah might see war as their last resort, rather than facing the discontent and wrath of millions in the streets, brought about by an economic paralysis.
  • Mehrdad: I do believe in what HTG has expressed here and this is very unfortunate for the Iranian people

Alright say this happens I got a very simple fix: don't fight. Let Khamenei and sepah go for it. Normal people should refuse to participate; better use it as a chance to rebel. Make it clear people are not with Khamenei and Sepah.

Why does everyone associate Iran to IRI and puts them together. Nobody is obligated to participate. This is not defending Iran rather suicide to keep a maniac in power. *** them. 


With all due respect Ari -

by Onlyiran on

this is nonsense, for the following reasons:

1- Everyone knows that Russia did not deliver the S-300s to Iran.  It even gave the IRI its prepayment back.  Belarus didn't do it either.  Moroever, the Chinese, with their far superior technology than that of the IRI, tried to replicate the S-300 system for years, but failed.  It will be literally a miracle, straight out of the Jamkaran Well, for the IRI (which can't even manufacture spare parts for civilian aircraft) to have bulit a similar system.

2- This whole fantasy about IRI 'bringing down' the U.S drone is utterly ridiculous.   If you believe that fantasy, you must have drank the IRI Cool-Aid.  That drone malfunctioned and glided down in Iranian territory, with the IRI being the Forrest Gump style beneficiary of the malfunction.  If they had hacked into it and landed it, they wouldn't have propped it up on a platform,with banners hiding its landing gear, at their show and tell TV session.  They would have just rolled it out on its wheels.  Incidentally, this also shows that the IRI doesn't even have the capability to repair the damaged landing gear.  So much for manufacturing the S-300 system!

3- As others pointed out, closing the Strait of Hormuz means the death of the IRI itself.  How long can it really last without oil revenue?  By the way, I'm hoping for the IRI to at least try to close the Strait (which is the extent of their hoopla anyway).  It will certainly bring a sure way for the IRI to be removed from power.

4- As I pointed out on another threat, does anyone in their right mind believe that after all the IRI threats, the U.S. and other Western nations do not have contingency plans to prevent the IR from even attempting the close the Strait? Does any non IRI Cool-Aid drinking person think for a minute that the U.S. does not have plans drawn out already for preemptive action?!!


A very good read on the topic….

by Bavafa on

Also a another good read by the link Mehrban provided.


One thing that it is worth discussing and keep in mind is that IRI would not need to destroy many tankers in order to close the passage, one or two might be enough to create enough havoc and deem the passage as unsafe for the non-military ships.  This would be at least for the duration that the conflict goes unresolved and the threats remain in place.


One last note on my part, though not directly related to the blog itself, I do believe in what HTG has expressed here and this is very unfortunate for the Iranian people

 “Yet if the sanctions go through (which they will) and the economy collapses, khamenehi and sepah might see war as their last resort, rather than  facing the discontent and wrath of millions in the streets, brought about by an economic paralysis. “


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


Anahid Hojjati

Interesting blog and great comments

by Anahid Hojjati on

I have not read some of the other articles regarding closing of strait of Hormuz but the way I read it, US doing sanctions to Iran is more  justified than Iran closing the strait because of it. This action (closing) amounts to a team starting fire in a stadium because their team is not allowed to play. If one team did that, you can imagine how other teams would deal with it. IRI thinks that because they can kill unarmed demonstrators, they can also bully the world. Not so fast buddy.


At long last, a good analysis.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

For a second hand toyota car dealer. Of course, ignoring the usual fantacies, which is after all  to be expected from car dealers, who dream every night of selling every single car on the forecourt at premium price.

But back to the real, nasty world of realities, facts and figures;  I am in the market for a second hand Camry ($7000 max. my budget). Anybody who knows of a good deal (state of Texas second hand car dealers excluded), just email me. And nice emails & comments only....:)


"Personal business must yield to collective interest."



by Hooshang Tarreh-Gol on




by Hooshang Tarreh-Gol on

the point of compare and contrast was to show the impossible odds against IR.

Mehrban posted an article that's very good in details of how and why odds are heavily against IR.

Yet if the sanctions go through (which they will) and the economy collapses, khamenehi and sepah might see war as their last resort, rather than  facing the discontent and wrath of millions in the streets, brought about by an economic paralysis.

Not a pretty picture.

How much is a dollar today in Tehran?