May 3, 2010: Iran insists that it can withstand any attack, and will have no trouble blocking the export of oil via the Straits of Hormuz in retaliation. Hormuz is where ships exit the Persian Gulf and enter the Indian Ocean. Some 40 percent of the world’s oil shipments pass through these straits, which comes to about 15-20 tankers a day (plus a dozen or more non-tankers). The Persian Gulf, in general, is a busy waterway. It is 989 kilometers long, and the average depth is 50 meters (maximum depth is 90 meters). Iran now openly boasts of its ability to use land based anti-ship missiles as “coastal artillery” to halt traffic in the straits. Given past performance by the Iranians, that is unlikely.
The Iranian problem is that they have a small navy, an obsolete air force and a poor track record when it comes to shutting down tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf, or the Straits of Hormuz. They tried once before, in the 1980s, when they were at war with Iraq. The two nations began attacking each other’s tanker traffic early on, in an attempt to cut off each other’s oil sales (and, thus, military purchases). Iran didn’t want to shut the Straits of Hormuz, because it needed the oil revenue more than Iraq (which was getting billions in aid from other Arab states) did. So each country concentrated on attacking shipping in the Persian Gulf. Over 500 ships were attacked, 61 percent of them tankers. Only 23 percent of the tankers attacked (mainly with the types of anti-ship mis… >>>