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Strait of Hormuz

Are we slipping towards war with Iran? We may very well be, then again we might not. Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, if there are further sanctions placed on the buy of Iranian oil. This could reduce the supply of oil world wide by as much as 20%.

It is a fairly complex situation. The Iranian government claims that their very large uranium enrichment program is just for civilian nuclear power. The problem is that you don’t need to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear reactors, but you do need to if you want nuclear weapons.

Pretty much everyone in the world has agreed that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon and they will probably achieve it sooner or later. The physics is hard, and the engineering is exacting, but the basic concepts are all well known and with enough time, effort and money, just about any nation that has native uranium resources (as Iran does) could build one or more.

Given this state of affairs various nations have been pushing for extending sanctions on the Islamic Republic, including their biggest trading partner for oil the European Union. The EU announced today that it had agreed in principal on an embargo of Iranian oil. It will take about a month for them to hash out all the particulars but to stop buying oil from Iran would be a major blow to the Iranian economy.

Iran has made threats to close the 34 mile wide strait before; back in 2008 they said that if there were any attack on Iranian soil from the United States or Israel they would close the strait. That would mean that the 14 or so daily super-tankers, carrying 35% of the world’s sea-born oil shipments would be cut off. That could make the price of oil increase by as much as 50% in mere days.

Obviously this is not a situation that the rest of the world would be willing to put up with. It is one of the reasons that the US Fifth Fleet is based in the Persian Gulf, to assure that the choke point is kept open, regardless of what the government in Tehran wants.

Unfortunately it is likely that Iran would be able to close the strait for at least some time, even with the US military assets that are stationed there. The bend that the strait executes combined with its narrowness and the slow speed that super-tanker make when loaded all combine to make it a good place for those wanting to prevent shipping.

The waterway is so narrow that there are regular collisions between ships, both commercial and military, and that is without the threat of small fast boats, air craft or missile emplacements to worry about. If Iran is really determined to close the strait, then they can make a good job of it.

The question is, are they really ready to try to throw down with the West over this? There is some indication that this posturing might be a bit of a bluff.

If the EU bans Iranian oil that does not mean they would not be able to sell oil, merely that they would not have their biggest current market available to them. It would hurt in the short term, but if they were able to come to terms with say China and develop delivery routes then that could replace their old markets.

Then there is the fact that any disruption or possible disruption in the amount of oil available raises the price. Just in the two weeks that this situation has been heating up crude oil has increased $6 a barrel. Iran is currently exporting about 2 million barrels a day, so that an extra $12 million they are pocketing on the worries all this tough talk is causing.

There is hope that Libya’s oil fields will come back to full production soon, and that will offset some loss of oil in the market if the EU does indeed stop buying from Iran. The Saudi’s have also said they would increase production and exportation of oil in support of the EU ban, but it is unclear if they really have the capacity to make up for a huge market shunning the oil from the forth largest exporter in the world.

If the Iranian government sees that it is going to have to develop new markets and trading partners to keep selling oil, it is in its interest to pocket as much money as it can in the short term, to offset the cost of developing new markets outside Europe.

The problem is that brinksmanship like this can easily spiral out of control. While the American public is generally tired of wars in the Middle East there is 50% of the population that would support a war with Iran if they acted to close the strait.

It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that the US can control the air space over Iran if we put our military might to it. We’ve done it time and again in the Middle East and our air power is geared to wiping out opposing forces air force and ground missiles. But is that enough to end a fight with Iran about the Strait of Hormuz?

If it comes to putting boots on the ground we really are not prepared to fight a large nation like Iran that has had plenty of money to buy good weapons systems over the last few decades. While they can’t buy from NATO countries the Russians and Chinese have been more than happy to sell them weapons systems and expertise. This will not be like fighting Saddam Hussein’s degraded military after a decade of very tough sanctions.

It looks to me that the Obama Administration would rather not have this fight. They know we are stretched thin militarily after our decade of military adventurism, but they might not have a choice if the Iranian government miscalculates and actually follows through on closing the water way that 20% of the worlds oil flows through.

The real question, and it is has been the question in Iran for a long time, is just how much of their rhetoric is serious and how much is just posturing so they don’t look weak to their own domestic population?

Just because the government has managed to suppress the dissent from the last elections, does not mean it has gone away. Nothing brings a nation together more than an external threat, and especially one where they can paint themselves as the scrappy underdog.

Tehran is in a box. If they back away from the fight about their nuclear program they will look weak internally and lose the support of those who want a strong Iran, even if they have to suffer a pretty corrupt and authoritarian government to have it.

On the other hand if they keep taking a hard line with a threat to the worlds oil supply and then act on that threat they have opened themselves up for a coalition like the one that ended the Khadafy regime in Libya.

All in all it is a nervous making time. Here is a fervent hope that calmer heads prevail before we let slip the Dogs of War once again in the Middle East.

The floor is yours.    

UPDATE: I just had an interesting conversation where I got the opinion of a very experienced Middle East Intel Analyst who'd rather remain anonymous.

He is of the opinion that this is all for internal consumption, and that there is zero chance of the government in Tehran actually following through on the threat to close the Strait.

The reasons (some of which have been said in comments) are that they know they can't win. They are doing this to make themselves look like heroes to a restive population by fighting the good fight against the Great Satan.

This person also thinks that part of what they hope to get out of this is to provoke American politicians (think Rick Perry or Mitt Romney) into shooting their mouths off and provide them with the evidence that they are the only can protect the Iranian people.

All in all it makes me a little less concerned that this will spiral out of control.

I know this is anonymous but take it for what it is worth.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Maybe not (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk, bear83, Wee Mama, Deep Texan, TexDem

    Thank God we have a very intelligent president. There might be other options. He realizes that the Iranian "governments" are not unilateral, and that the Netanyahu approach will only make the situation much, much worse.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:08:28 AM PST

    •  I hope so. But he doesn't control with the EU (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GoGoGoEverton, GreyHawk

      does and if Iran follows through on closing the Strait there really is no other choice but some kind of military action.

      •  Yeah, that EU, always trigger-happy! n/t (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        stevej, Anne Elk, allenjo

        But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

        by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:17:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That is not what I meant and you know it, goof! (0+ / 0-)

          I don't think that anyone wants war or even a limited military conflict with Iran, the EU just also wants to turn the heat up on them about their nuclear program.

          •  Yeah, I'm a joker, but not in this case! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Deep Texan

            I don't understand what you could mean, except that the EU would somehow be pushing for a confrontation.  And you've reinforced that in your follow-up comment.  What's the difference between what you're saying and my interpretation of it?

            But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

            by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:29:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The point is, the EU wants to put pressure on (3+ / 0-)

              Iran about its nuclear ambitions. It is going to ban the import of Iranian oil some time late this month.

              Now Iran has said that it might close the strait if that happens. If Iran does close the strait that is going to be basically economic blackmail for the whole western world as the price of oil will skyrocket since 20% of the worlds oil passes through there.

              No nation is going to sit by and allow that happen. It is not about being trigger happy it is about not allowing anyone to actually exert that level of control in a negative way over your economy.

              The reason Iran is threatening to do this is that the EU is making the same kind of threat to their economy. That is what makes this whole thing so dangerous.

        •  They happen to have a LOT of assets in the Stan (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Something the Dog Said

          Hold that thought.

      •  Our 5th fleet essentially guaranteed the gulf (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreyHawk, blue aardvark

        states that they didn't need to worry about maintaining a Navy...so it's not like SA or Kuwait could oppose an Iranian blockade....thus you're right.

        Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

        by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:17:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Saudis have a nice Air Force (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GoGoGoEverton, Pozzo

          supplied by Boeing.

          I don't think they would sit still for a provocation like choking off part of their petro exports.

          "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

          by bear83 on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:37:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That they do (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bear83

            Third largest fleet of F-15's in the world, after Japan and the US. F-15 is still better than anything Iran can put in the air - although the real pants-wetter for Iranian pilots would probably be a Super Hornet in the rear view mirror.

            If things reach the point where the US sends F-22's into battle the Iranian air force becomes target drones.

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:44:28 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Don't count on us sending the Raptors in. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bear83, blue aardvark

              We've never deployed them in battle for a good reason, they are way, way, way too maintenance intensive. They take some ungodly number of maintenance hours per air hour and they have problems with the oxygen systems that are still not fixed.

              But that said, we don't need them. We have (arguably) three of the top four air superiority fighters in the world in our inventory, so if we don't use the F-22's we still can suppress the Iranian Air Force.

              •  It's not an air war . (0+ / 0-)

                The Iranians will not use planes to sink ships .
                They are said to have missiles along the shore .

                "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

                by indycam on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:38:32 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  All wars are air wars. If you want to hammer the q (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Pozzo

                  missile sites you need to be able to have your planes loiter around and to do that you need to be sure they are not going to come under fire from enemy aircraft or ground to air missiles.

                •  How long will those missiles last (0+ / 0-)

                  in the face of U.S. airpower hunting them down? I think the odds of Iran actually being able to sink one of our ships is close to nil.

                  •  Oh, I don't know about that. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Pozzo

                    They won't be able to sink many but it is pretty easy to sink a tanker and it is pretty hard to defend against missiles (though it can be done to some extent).

                    But the issue is what it would cost Iran if they did. It would probably cost them their entire navy and their entire air force. That is a pretty high cost.

                  •  They don't have to last . (0+ / 0-)

                    They don't have to sink one of our ships .

                    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

                    by indycam on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 01:41:10 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  They have to last (0+ / 0-)

                      and they need to be able to score hits if it comes to actual military confrontation.

                      •  To shut down the waterway (0+ / 0-)

                        they don't need to last .
                        Its a first strike weapon .
                        They will use them to sink a large ship to block up the shipping lane .

                        If the U.S. then blows up every last one within 10 miles of the Strait of Hormuz , its no big deal . The Iranians will have more stashed away here and there .  

                        The U.S. can't take out the missiles before they are used , once they are used to block up the shipping lane its to late to take them out . That's the "game". The Iranians can block the shipping lane whenever they want and the U.S. can't stop it , they can only respond to it .

                        The next thing is , will the U.S. go to war over a foreign nations ship being sunk in foreign waters ? The Carter doctrine says the U.S. will use the U.S. military to keep the waterway open , but does that equal war ?  

                        "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

                        by indycam on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 02:19:43 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

  •  Let's hope if there's an explosion (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk, bear83, blue aardvark

    it's from within.

    I oppose military intervention with Iran (I don't think we would ever invade except for a SEAL team here and there) and think we need more of a Monroe-Doctrine about nukes vs trying to keep everyone but allies from having them (you shoot one, your nation is forfeit, you proliferate a working one, your nuke facilities are forfeit). Continued social and economic pressure will hopefully promote continued progress on the part of liberals in Iran.

    The only caveat to this would be if we think war amongst the gulf states is imminent...that SA, Turkey, or the gulf Emirates got pissed enough to scramble bombers. I'm not sure the whole region blowing up would be preferable to us taking the hit...

    Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:16:07 AM PST

  •  Saudi Arabia has an air force. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk, blue aardvark

    It's their loss if their oil can't be exported.  We didn't arm them to the teeth for decades so they could fight Israel--it was to fight Iran, in part so that we didn't have to.  Let them decide how to handle it.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:16:39 AM PST

    •  And if they ask for our help? (0+ / 0-)

      What then? It is unlikely that they are going to go in on their own hook.

      •  Saudi Arabia has better stuff than Iran. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pozzo

        Their pilots are better trained.  I don't see why they would need our help.  I'm no military expert (that's the understatement of the day!), but I see Iran as a military built to defend the homeland rather than to project its power even into the Straits.  They're a lot like North Korea.

        But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

        by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:32:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually (2+ / 0-)

          They have built their navy and missile forces to close the Strait, not just for "self defense."

        •  Iran has Silkworm missiles (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dark daze

          on the islands offshore. Those are not there to stop an amphibious landing.

          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

          by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:47:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  and sunburn missiles (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blue aardvark, nchristine, semiot

            people miss the whole point when discussing the blockade.  They dont actually have to have a real blockade.  they need to only sink a few oil tankers, at that point, the insurance companies will do the rest.  No company will insure the oil tankers, the shipping will stop.

            Iran doesnt need some air tight blockade, they just need to be able to cause havoc, and causing havoc is easy.  A few oil tankers sunk, oil goes through the roof, our economies begin to tank further, our internal politics will be insane as well.

            and.. To think we can stop a country from selling oil, thats nuts.

            All Iran is doing now is what the diarist stated, talking smack, driving up the price of oil, and pocketing the millions. All Europe and the US is doing is talking smack as to not to offend some super pacs.

            Iran has at least 6 months to find plan B to sell its oil, you really think that will be hard?  its OIL!

            The only losers here are US!, we will pay inflated prices to heat our homes and gas up our cars this winter because of this bullshit.

            Bad is never good until worse happens

            by dark daze on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:35:42 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran had the stated (0+ / 0-)

          objective of "liberating" the Shiite holy city of Kerbala, which is in the middle of Iraq. So they do not -- or haven't always had -- a defensive mission for their military.

          Still, it's by no means clear that they're near to having nuclear bomb capacity.

          "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

          by Kimball Cross on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:59:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The Iranians have explicitly threatened (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pozzo

      our carrier battle groups - told us to stay out of the Persian Gulf.

      If they were gob-smackingly stupid enough to attack one of our carriers ... well, that's akin to kicking a grizzly bear cub in front of Mama.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:47:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  you need million boots on the ground (0+ / 0-)

        to beat them in a war, you willing to fight? I aint.

        These are the same people who use little girls to clear minefields, and charge 100k waves of unarmed people into front lines to basically catch bullets.

        Iran is OK with losing a million or so people? are we?  for what?

        Bad is never good until worse happens

        by dark daze on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:39:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A nit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk, qm1pooh, Deep Texan
    Unfortunately it is likely that Iran would be able to close the strait for at least some time, even with the US military assets that are stationed there. The bend that the strait executes combined with its narrowness and the slow speed that super-tanker make when loaded all combine to make it a good place for those wanting to prevent shipping.

    I think it is completely absurd to think Iran could close the Straight. First at it's narrowest point it is six miles wide and the average depth of 300 feet. So closing the straight would be tougher than most people think.

    Next Iran has to know that they would probably lose most of the Naval assets fairly quickly in any attempt to close the straight. This probably why they have already backed off this threat.

    Republicans 2012 . . . Keeping millions out of work to put one man out of a job.

    by jsfox on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:17:09 AM PST

    •  Well (4+ / 0-)

      I have navigated military vessels transiting the Strait numerous times, and you are both right and wrong. It is 6 miles at the narrowest, but at that point the shipping lanes are 2 miles wide total (the fringes are too shallow). That may seem like a lot of water, but it could very easily be closed by mining, sinking derelicts etc. The real threat is the number of Iranian surface to sea missiles, which are positioned to strike vessels well outside of the limits of the Strait itself.

      •  Silkworms on island (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dark daze

        Hard to sink an island. Send in the Marines? Gets messy.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:50:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Right- (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Something the Dog Said, semiot, Pozzo

        The advent of missile technology means we're not talking about a classic sea-based blockade.

        I have little doubt that the 5th fleet would dispatch any naval assets with relative ease -- it's the fact that you'd need to essentially obliterate everything on the shore that could wreak havoc... which is considerably harder to deal with.

        I'm trying to remember when it was - but I have a recollection of a NATO wargame exercise some years back where the commander who handled the enemy ops caused a real headache by showing that he could effectively tie things up for a long time just by playing hide and seek, sending little patrol boats out on suicide runs when targets approached the straights, and keeping his missile assets at bay until juicy targets presented themselves.

        IIRC, he forced the NATO side into their last resort of just blasting the hell out of the whole of southern Iran, which the exercise was supposed to eliminate as a necessary option.

        This is not something anyone sane wants to have come about -- let's just hope there are enough sane people on both sides.

        Full Disclosure: I am an unpaid shill for every paranoid delusion that lurks under your bed - but more than willing to cash any checks sent my way

        by zonk on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 08:02:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Tankers are expensive (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dark daze, semiot

      Shore to ship missiles are relatively cheap. Iran has them. Iran has small islands offshore within range of the strait. We can't sink those islands. No one is going to take the risk of sailing a billion dollar tanker through the strait if Iran scores even one hit with a Silkworm or equivalent.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:49:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  bingo (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue aardvark

        and vietnam and afghanistan shows you how ineffective bombing is against small targets with easy to access earth cover.

        Bad is never good until worse happens

        by dark daze on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:41:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes and no (0+ / 0-)

          The NVA made extensive use of small, shallow tunnels. We can spot those now. And we've got bunker-busting bombs we didn't have for Vietnam.

          Afghanistan has mountains which have to be flown over or around. Operating at sea level is much easier, and the ability to dig really deep is limited by the water table.

          If we can spot their missiles, we can destroy them from the air. With control of the air we might land Marines via Ospery and conduct island by island searches. I wouldn't want to be a platoon or two of Iranian Republican Guards trying to protect a Silkworm against a regiment of US Marines backed up by a carrier air wing.

          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

          by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:46:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  bunker busters (0+ / 0-)

            way to expensive to use in a way that would need to to root out small teams.

            second, missile technology is cheap and very effective versus shipping.  

            and third, you forget, Iranians have shown they are not afraid to die in large numbers.  are we?

            Bad is never good until worse happens

            by dark daze on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:50:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  My point is that we need not fight (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              semiot, Pozzo

              large numbers of Iranians. To get at the Silkworms / Sunburns we just need to hit the launchers. These are not man-portable missiles that can be hidden in a golf bag.

              Here's a picture of the SS-N-22 Moskit Sunburn.

              Thirty feet long and weighs 5 tons. Normally launched from ships, not land. Wikipedia, for what it's worth, does not list Iran as an operator of the Moskit.

              Range is 75 miles which means it has to be on or near the Iranian coast to be effective.

              In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

              by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 08:06:58 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  whole strait is only 30 miles across (0+ / 0-)

                so it doesnt need to be near the coast

                Bad is never good until worse happens

                by dark daze on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 08:28:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I would call within 50 miles of the coast "near" (0+ / 0-)

                  for purposes of attacks by carrier based aircraft.

                  The other point is that the horizon is only 3.1 miles for an observer at sea level. These missiles have to be aimed close enough to the target to enable lock-on by the onboard targeting computer. Which implies a radar with visibility of the strait to enable initial targeting.

                  Guess what happens to enemy radar when the US Navy is operating under wartime rules of engagement. A HARM missile can ruin your entire day.

                  In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

                  by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:01:18 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  please (0+ / 0-)

                    you know what you call a fleet close to a shoreline?  SUNK.

                    Missile tech has far outstripped a ships ability to defend against it.

                    Just like battleships, these large fleets are going the way of the dinosaur.

                    If you aint a sub or stealth, your just a tin can waiting to be hit.

                    Bad is never good until worse happens

                    by dark daze on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 10:24:08 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Pozzo

                      Who said our fleet was near the shoreline?

                      Range of missile = 75 miles.

                      Range of F-18D = 450 miles.

                      So from 300 miles outside maximum missile range we can bomb them with relative impunity.

                      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

                      by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 10:29:27 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  range of what missiles? (0+ / 0-)

                        there are all types of missiles with all types of range.

                        And where in the persian gulf are you planning to be 300 miles from a shore line?

                        Bad is never good until worse happens

                        by dark daze on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 01:44:27 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Well, let's see (0+ / 0-)

                          About 400 miles SSE from Hormuz, in the Arabian Sea.

                          Why the hell would a carrier group have to be in the Persian Gulf for planes to operate in SW Iran?

                          And exactly how will Iran target a carrier battle group in the Arabian Sea? With their vast constellation of real-time IMINT satellites? With their daring SR-71 pilots?

                          Are you suggesting they should just start firing Shahab missiles south and hope they hit a carrier?

                          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

                          by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 01:53:45 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  my god (0+ / 0-)

                            are you even following this discussion, if the fleet is to protect the tankers , the fleet has to get its ass in there, and thus become vulnerable as well.

                            God, how many wars have to show that air power has many many limitations til some people get it.

                            Bad is never good until worse happens

                            by dark daze on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 12:54:41 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You evidently have no idea (0+ / 0-)

                            how to fight a modern war. This isn't a convoy in WWII.

                            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

                            by blue aardvark on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 12:58:14 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  my god (0+ / 0-)

                            you miss this entire debate, yes, actually the fleet would have to escort the tankers through.

                            Bad is never good until worse happens

                            by dark daze on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 12:59:49 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Some ship *might* have to be the escort (0+ / 0-)

                            It would not have to be the carrier battle group. More likely a frigate. All you're doing is keeping away small craft. Air cover might suffice.

                            Do you not understand that in the event of open war the entire Iranian air defense system is gone in the first 15 minutes? And after that US jets blast anything in the littoral that looks vaguely threatening? There won't be fishermen out on the water because the area will be a declared war zone.

                            The missiles can't be fired without targeting. Any radar that lights up ceases to exist within minutes.

                            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

                            by blue aardvark on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 01:06:49 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  you dont get it (0+ / 0-)

                            you really think its a video game , where it takes just a few minutes to destroy everything? please?  how many planes you think we have in the air at the time?  

                            Its not nearly as easy as you think, but then again, what do I know, my family only has two Lt Commanders over there.

                            Its amazing how little people actually understand war.

                            If open war is declared, EVERYONE loses, including US.

                            Bad is never good until worse happens

                            by dark daze on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 07:48:37 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  fyi (0+ / 0-)

                            if Iran has the s-300 the whole air defense game has changed.

                            Its amazing how so many americans think we are the only ones with advanced weapons.  

                            Bad is never good until worse happens

                            by dark daze on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 08:13:37 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

            •  Fact is, any military action in the Strait of (4+ / 0-)

              Hormuz would get real ugly, real fast. The Iranians don't want that, other Middle Eastern countries relying on shipping through the Strait don't want that, the EU doesn't want that, Israel probably doesn't want that, and we don't want that.

              But the kinds of passions that drive wars have been know to overwhelm all attempts at logical alternatives.

              Even in this thread you start to pick up on some people getting excited about 'our capabilities' v. 'their capabilities'. Speculation is pointless. Speculation is dangerous. Speculation excites the immature. We should be spending more time discussing what we'll do in the form of protest if war is looking imminent.

              That said, do we even know whether or not Iran already has nukes, as in Russian or Chinese? And that all this has more to do with stopping their ability to produce their own?

              Could it be China has already slipped a few to the Iranians and that's why the Israelis haven't attacked?

              Does anyone here even have a clue what we're really talking about when it comes to war with Iran?

              •  You'd think we would have learned from Iraq, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                dark daze

                Afghanistan, and for God's sake Vietnam what superior capabilities get you.  

                What'd the devil give you for your soul, Tommy? He taught me to play this guitar REAL good. Oh son, for that you gave up your everlastin' soul? Well, I wuddn' usin' it.

                by ZedMont on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 10:00:05 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  Not correct. Reactor fuel also needs enriching. (5+ / 0-)
    The problem is that you don’t need to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear reactors, but you do need to if you want nuclear weapons.

    You can't run a nuclear reactor on unenriched uranium. Uranium 235, the kind that splits and generates heat, is a miniscule fraction of unentriched uranium. The element has to be enriched to 3% U-235 so it can fuel a reactor.

    Just because they're enriching uranium doesn't mean they're hell-bent on creating a bomb.

    "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

    by Kimball Cross on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:18:06 AM PST

  •  Mixed feelings about this. (7+ / 0-)

    On the one hand, I sure don't want Iran to have nukes. But on the other hand, I'm not convinced they'd ever use them. Yes, Ahmadinijad is kinda crazy, but he has to know that if they used niukes they would be obliterated.

    Othe other hand (yeah, starting to sound like Tevye) if they get nukes then they could do shit like blockades and we'd be in a weaker position to do anything about it. On the other hand, if we'd just get the fuck off of oil then a blockade wouldn't mean jack shit to us.

    Bottom line for me, I do not want to see us going to war with Iran. I really, really don't. I hope Obama and other world leaders can come up with some way of avoiding that.

    Ds see human suffering and wonder what they can do to relieve it. Rs see human suffering and wonder how they can profit from it.

    by JTinDC on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:22:30 AM PST

    •  Mr. A is "president" but he isn't in control of (5+ / 0-)

      the military and foreign policy. That job belongs to "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Khamenei (Khomeni's nephew). Iran has a very peculiar system of government.

      "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

      by Kimball Cross on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:55:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I realize that, but admit I hadn't given thought (0+ / 0-)

        to the significant difference that makes. Religious ideology is, IMO, a bigger danger. Makes me even more uncomrfortable with the idea of them having nukes. I could much more easily envision the Ayatollah using nukes than Mr A.

        Ds see human suffering and wonder what they can do to relieve it. Rs see human suffering and wonder how they can profit from it.

        by JTinDC on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:56:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's a pretty stark choice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib

    There's pretty universal agreement that, no matter what is says to the rest of the world, Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.  And, it's becoming pretty clear that nothing short of some military intervention (like a strike destroying their facilities) is going to stop them.  

    So, I fear that, ultimately, the President is going to be faced with a stark choice (1) let Iran have nuclear weapons; or (2) a military intervention of some kind.  Neither option is a good thing.  The choice will be between the lesser of the two evils.  

    The only thing that may alleviate him of that ultimate choice is if Israel makes that choice for him.  

    •  If Israel makes that choice do you believe we are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nchristine

      obligated to support them with more than just words?

      Iranian nukes are a threat to everyone, but more so to Irans neighbors than to us. If Iran nuked us, we'd nuke them back and Irans neighbors would undoubtedly suffer from the literal fallout. Irans neighbors have a greater incentive than we do to keep Iran from getting nukes. Just for freakin' once I'd like to see the rest of the world handle shit without us having to be dragged into it.

      And don't get me wrong, I'm no anit-war whatever the circumstance types. But I never again want to see us go to war over oil and that's what this is turning into.

      Ds see human suffering and wonder what they can do to relieve it. Rs see human suffering and wonder how they can profit from it.

      by JTinDC on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:33:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The real threat to the US with Iran (0+ / 0-)

      is that when a country has nuclear weapons they are treated very differently by the United States as the treat of the US using military force against that country is largely removed.

      Consider the case of Pakistan or North Korea, both nuclear powers.  As they are nuclear powers, the ability of the US to explicitly or implicitly threaten the use of military force is severely weakened - because of the concern that nuclear weapons might be used or "fall into the wrong hands."

      Iran's leadership likely sees the situation as they need to get through a current "rough spot" until they demonstrate they have nuclear weapons with a test of a nuclear weapon.  Once the world  and the US see they have a nuclear weapon, they expect they will be treated very differently and become a far more important power in the region.

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 12:21:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  IAEA Report (2+ / 0-)

    Satellite images being used by the UN to claim that facilities at two Iranian cities may be used to develop nuclear weapons.

    The overhead pictures were released by Google following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which expressed 'serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme'.

    The IAEA report, which ‘completely discredits’ the Islamic nation’s protestations of innocence, according to Foreign Secretary William Hague, cites preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test.

    Development of an intermediate-range nuclear payload capable of reaching Israel is also in progress, according to the report.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/...

  •  Swarms of small boats carrying (3+ / 0-)

    explosives can overwhelm a carrier battle group - if said battle group gets too close.

    This is where stealthy bombers that can take out Iranian air defenses so that regular patrols can be made by recce planes come in handy.

    Having said that, there's lots of little islands off the Iranian coast, and we can't sink an island. Put 5 guys with a Silkworm or equivalent on an island, and they can take out a tanker. And the minute one tanker is hit the rest stop trying.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:39:08 AM PST

    •  Yep, and those same Silkworms can do a hell (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark

      of a lot of damage to warships too.

      This whole thing makes me nervous. I really don't want to see another war in the ME, but this is the kind of situation that can spiral out of control really fast and with few ways back.

    •  It would force an amphibious landing. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark

      Ultimately, ground forces would need to hold the coastline to secure shipping. So essentially, a full blown war.

      •  Amphibious landings on the islands (0+ / 0-)

        are not a full blown war, because Iran can't counter-attack. They have no landing ships and don't have enough helicopters to ferry a meaningful invasion force across the water - and I would not volunteer to try flying a squad of helicopters across water with F-18s overhead.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 08:55:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wasn't this a result of more meddling by (2+ / 0-)

    Congress to require tougher sancations than administration wanted? This was either part of the NDAA or voted on separately, can't remember.

  •  Iran also has (3+ / 0-)

    3  Kilo class Russian built subs. Very quite diesel-electric design. Can be used to lay mines.

    "Nonviolent in the face of police brutality." Scott Olsen's email signature

    by BOHICA on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 06:59:53 AM PST

  •  Ironically, the fears about a nuclear Iran (5+ / 0-)

    are not really supported by historical precedent. Nuclear states tend to become much more cautious rather than less. Acquisition of nukes by the USSR led to talk not war between the US and USSR, even though a lot of brinkmanship was involved. Pakistan and India fought 4 major wars until Pakistan became a nuclear state. Even the attack in Mumbai did not trigger a major Indian response even though the Indians are convinced that the ISI was deeply involved. Israel has nuclear weapons but is arguably in the weakest strategic position it has been in since 1967. So, the idea that nuclear weapons are ipso facto a gigantic existential threat is simply not born out by history. Does that mean I want Iran to have nukes? No. But then I wonder whether it is the disaster some think it is. Once Iran gets its nuclear capacity, it will have to make much more careful calculations than it has been. And it will have some very unpleasant consequences for Iran quite apart from war. Nukes may make Iran feel more secure but it's strategic position may become weaker.

    •  Good point. If you have a nuke and use it then (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      semiot

      you are wide open for nuclear retaliation. Given the size of the US arsonal it is a pretty scary idea that using your capability is likely to get you a lot more rained down on your own heartland.

    •  Lesson of Gulf War I (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      semiot, Pozzo

      An Indian diplomat remarked that the lesson India learned from the first Gulf War was that if you want to oppose the United States, you had better have nuclear weapons. Our conventional forces really are All That.

      So a nuclear Iran makes conventional war impossible but also makes Iran provoking a war unthinkable - because if a nuclear power does something that instigates a war with another nuclear power, the odds of a first strike to take out the nukes go way up.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:19:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Iran provoking a war (5+ / 0-)

        I want all these people banging the war drums for bombing the crap out of Iran to provide me with detailed information on the last time that Iran engaged in initiating a war on any other country.  Who is the mad elephant barging into other countries laying waste, death, destruction and cluster bombs for all the kids to play with?  Hint, it is NOT Iran.

        The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

        by ActivistGuy on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:22:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Iran-Iraq, 10 years worth. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blue aardvark

          Many are just playing out 'what ifs' in this thread.

        •  Technically speaking, the US Embassy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pozzo

          takeover of 1979. An embassy is sovereign territory, so when Iranian citizens with the tacit approval of their government overran our embassy that was an invasion of US territory.

          Which is not to say that's on the same scale as invading Iraq in 2003. I merely wish to point out that Iran, like many nations, is constrained more by what they can get away with than by international law or a love of peace.

          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

          by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:37:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's really not the point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pozzo

          No country starts a war until it does. But perhaps the point you are trying to make is that Iran wants nukes because it is paranoid about being invaded and this is its ultimate insurance policy. After all, the US invaded its neighbors to the west and to the east, rejected its overtures after 9/11 (huge strategic error by the US), and generally feels that the US and Israel have pretty belligerent attitudes toward them, including assassinating their scientists and launching computer attacks on them, not to mention the immense financial pressure they are under. So I quite understand Iranian motivations on this score. I have no great sympathy for the regime but I think I get why they are doing what they are doing.

  •  I admit to getting skeptical when the MSM starts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, Pescadero Bill, semiot

    saying something like Obama doesn't appear to want to do this.  Reading thru alot of commentary on this it doesn't seem anyone has a good handle on what will happen.  The hardliners in Israel and the U.S. want it, but it does "appear" that the more sensible realize what a clusterfuck it could be, not to mention unsupportable legally.  The problem now is there are pieces in place that if someone wanted to provoke something, they easily could.  Hopefully we won't see this happen but there are alot of things we don't know and what's happening and why.

  •  Question - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark

    When the US forces left Iraq, most were basically shipped to Kuait (sp??)??  Which means we have the bodies in place with their equipment.  The Army just does not move its toys around on a whim and I don't think all of it is back in US territory.

    Many of the extreme right wingers and extremest religious types have been looking for an excuse to take on Iran for decades now.  This may not end well for anyone.  If you thought wars for resources were done.... they've only just begun.

    •  They would have to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nchristine

      Travel by sea or go back through Iraq to get there. Sitting ducks.

      "Nonviolent in the face of police brutality." Scott Olsen's email signature

      by BOHICA on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:18:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Probably. But, consider the religious (0+ / 0-)

        fundamentalists and the extreme right wingers.  They've already proven that they'll do just about anything to reach their goals.  All they really need to do is get one of the battleships too close to a tanker, let the tanker get blown by Iran - game on.  The usual low information US citizen will be insensed by this and demand retribution when one of 'their' ships gets blown out of the water, even if it's collateral damage.

  •  Actually you DO need to enrich uranium (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigAlinWashSt, johnel

    to fuel reactors, up to about 15-20% U-235 from the natural 2-3%.  It takes a much much higher level of enrichment, to 95% to make weapons grade.

    The reason we will have war is that "liberals" are eagerly promulgating ideas like "you don't have to enrich uranium to fuel reactors", when even the most rudimentary knowledge of the facts, or a few seconds of questioning the propaganda to check it out, are dismissed as unnecessary and getting in the way of a good war-mongering.

    But I know quite well, war with Iran will be sold as just as pragmatic and realistic as the pragmatic realistic serious centrist Dems told us war with Iraq would be and was.  Never have I heard any political action of any sort praised for its "pragmatism" more than the war with Iraq, but that is soon to change,  Finally, something more "pragmatic" than invading Iraq, bombing Iran!  And anyone that opposes doing so is a smug, naive purist that fully deserves total marginalization and silencing in the media.

    The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:19:17 AM PST

    •  Some clarifications required (0+ / 0-)

      Iran's requirements for enriched uranium for non-weapons purposes depends on the type of reactor that they are going to use the uranium in.

      So, for example, when the diary author says that you don't "need" enriched uranium to fuel power reactors he is technically correct.  For instance the CANDU reactor design can generate power from natural uranium.  But the Iranian reactor is a Russian designed (?, certainly not CANDU) reactor.

      Regardless, it is very common to use enriched uranium at the 3-5% level (low enriched uranium - LEU) that the Iranians are generally producing to fuel commercial reactors.

      In addition to producing 3-5% LEU fuel for their power reactor the Iranians also have a requirement to produce small amounts of 20% enriched uranium (still not generally consider weapons grade) to produce medical isotopes.  I've not seen any reports that they are producing 20% enriched uranium in quantities greater than what is required for their medical purposes.

      Weapons grade uranium (highly enriched uranium - HEU) is generally enriched to 80-90% and there have been no reports, as in 0, zip, nada, nothing, that the Iranians have actually or attempted to produce enriched uranium beyond the 20% level required for their medical isotope production much less the 80-90% generally used for weapons material.

      As far as Iranian threats to blockade the Straights of Hormuz, this kabuki theatre has been going on for decades.  It makes for good domestic consumption for the Iranians but more importantly from their perspective it drives up the price of oil and brings in more money for them.  Useful if somebody is about to impose sanctions on you.

      The threat of and actual implementation of sanctions also has a positive benefit to the Iranians in the short term by  driving up the price of oil.

      In the longer term, there's only so much oil being produced.  The Iranians will find customers for their oil one way or another absent a significant collapse in demand.  And as far as the sanctions reducing the price the Iranians can command for their oil?   Possibly but not likely.  Countries that need oil, NEED oil.  The Iranians can spike the price of oil just by stopping exports for a month until customers come crying to them for oil at only moderately above market prices.

      The rise in the cost of oil to consuming nations does have a positive effect from a tough love perspective though, as it will drive the adoption of alternative energy technologies, products and markets that we should have focused on long ago.

  •  From 4 days ago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    semiot
    Iran initiates nuclear talks with six world powers as sanctions squeeze Ahmadinejad regime  

    Iran’s effort at re-establishing some kind of rapport comes amid serious sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union. The U.S. crackdown barred American banks from doing business with foreign banks involved with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and targeted exports of gasoline and other petroleum products to Iran.

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/...

    Just one article. Who knows.

  •  I'm looking forward to reading... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Something the Dog Said, Monteego

    Trita Parsi's new book on recent Iranian-US diplomacy (A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran), due out later this month.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 07:46:34 AM PST

  •  Per your update, I have to disagree that Mitt (0+ / 0-)

    would start a war with Iran or be any more likely to attack than Obama...the result would be really crappy for everyone's economy IMO and Mitt cares about $$$$ first and foremost.

    Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 08:23:19 AM PST

  •  I would like to post a minor correction, (0+ / 0-)

    because this otherwise reads like propaganda --

    You do need to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear reactors. They will not run on ore. One of the great subsidies to our nuke industry for much of its early existence was the bargain priced supply of enriched fuel rods by uncle to the operators.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:06:58 AM PST

  •  Back Story: Congress / Netanyahu (0+ / 0-)

    This is what I was looking for:

    When Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is closely aligned with Netanyahu's Likud Party, pushed the idea of sanctions against any financial institution that did business with Iran's Central Bank, the aim was to make it impossible for countries that import Iranian crude to continue to be able to make payments for the oil. Dubowitz wanted virtually every country importing Iranian crude except China and India to cut off their imports. He argued that reducing the number of buyers to mainly China and India would not result in a rise in the price of oil, because Iran would have to offer discounted prices to the remaining buyers. Global oil analysts warned, however, that such a sanctions regime could not avoid creating a spike in oil prices.

    U.S. officials told Reuters Nov. 8 that sanctions on Iran's Central Bank were "not on the table". The Obama administration was warning that such sanctions would risk a steep rise in oil prices worldwide and a worsening global recession, while actually increasing Iranian oil revenues.

    But Netanyahu used the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over Congressional action related to Israel to override Obama's opposition. The Senate unanimously passed an amendment representing Netanyahu's position on sanctions focused on Iran's oil sector and the Central Bank, despite a letter from Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner opposing it. A similar amendment was passed by the House Dec. 15.

    More:
    http://ipsnews.net/...

  •  Carter Doctrine (0+ / 0-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    The Carter Doctrine was a policy proclaimed by President of the United States Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980, which stated that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf region.

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:32:33 AM PST

  •  Closing the strait of Hormuz would have the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pozzo

    unhappy consequence for Iran of creating instant worldwide allies for any war that resulted.

    What'd the devil give you for your soul, Tommy? He taught me to play this guitar REAL good. Oh son, for that you gave up your everlastin' soul? Well, I wuddn' usin' it.

    by ZedMont on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 09:55:47 AM PST

  •  Well technically we are already at (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Something the Dog Said

    war with Eurasia. Always have been.

    But seriously, even anticipating the update, there is always some form of brinkmanship going on.

    H'mm. I'm not terribly into this, anymore.

    by Knarfc on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 12:06:07 PM PST

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