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The Strait of Hormuz

October 26, 2012

Last month, I listed the seven Keys that Lock Up the Energy World, a list of the chokepoints that potentially constrict and therefore control the flows of oil and natural gas from producing to consuming regions.  This post presents a look at the most critical of those five keys, the Strait of Hormuz, through which as much as 35% of the world’s crude oil and 20% of natural gas must pass in order to reach markets.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times published a detailed examination of the likelihood that Iran would try to close the straits.  Iran has threatened the straits for decades, but have usually had their threats dismissed as empty bluster – they need the straits as much or more as anyone else, as most of their imports and exports must also pass through them.  However, as sanctions bite down harder and harder and internal dissent grows, the notion of closing the straits might change from strategic folly to political necessity.

Would they be able to accomplish this feat?  It would require a remarkable David vs. Goliath victory, as the Iranian Navy’s swarm tactics would try to defeat two different US Navy Air Craft Carrier Task Forces currently in the area.  Raytheon has already supplied the Navy with a new system designed to counteract presumed Iranian tactics, and one would assume that Boeing’s new CHAMP missiles would be deployed very early any such battle, shutting down much of Iran’s capability and blinding the rest.

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