Officials from Iran threatened the world with another oil shock over the weekend. A ranking general said that he had plans in place to close the Strait of Hormuz. The Majlis, or parliament, is debating a bill to do just that. But the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region are looking for ways to bypass the Strait of Hormuz. And the US Navy has its own plans to keep the Strait open.
Strait of Hormuz, oil highway to the world
The Strait of Hormuz is the most important oil route in the world. According to Russia Today, 17 million barrels, on average, sailed through the Strait every day in 2011. Depending on whom one asks, that’s anywhere from 16 to 40 percent of the total oil that comes out of the ground around the world. Majlis Member Mohammed Hassan Asfari put it at 16 to 20 percent, but the same article (from Fars News Agency) put it at 40 percent. Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson puts it at 33 percent.
The Majlis’ National Security and Foreign Policy Commission already has a bill to close the strait. At last report, 100 of 290 Members of Parliament are co-sponsoring this bill.
Flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1980)
In response, several Arab countries are looking for ways to bypass the Strait of Hormuz. Abu Dhabi loaded its first cargo from a new pipeline that can carry 1.5 million barrels a day. It hopes to handle the heaviest tankers so that they don’t have to use the Strait.
Saudi Arabia has a 5-million-barrel-a-day pipeline that can carry oil from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. (They also re-activated an old pipeline that can carry 1.65 million barrels a day to the Red Sea from Iraq.) Iraq is building its own pipeline to a Turkish port.
Still, all these pipelines together might carry only half the oil that passes through the Strait of Hormuz today. Iranian MP Asfari (see above) bragged yesterday that the Arabs simply don’t have any other way to get their oil to market. He exaggerates, of course. But cutting the flow of oil by half would still send oil prices higher. (Watson guesses that oil could fetch as much as $300 a barrel, or even $500.) Retail gasoline is already getting more expensive in the USA.
Major General Hassan Firouzabali, Iran’s chief of staff, said yesterday that he already has a plan. He can close the Strait of Hormuz whenever the Supreme Leader of Iran (Ayatollah Ali Khameini) gives the word. (See also here.)
The US Navy has its own plans. It will use robot submarines, the latest technique in minesweeping, to clear any mines that the Iranians might lay in the Strait. Still, the Navy admits that the Iranians can sink a few ships and block the Strait at least temporarily.
If Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, it will invite war with every country having territory bordering the Persian Gulf upstream of the Strait. Of course, any such war will block the Strait as long as it lasts. That will increase the price of oil worldwide. But that might prompt the Arab states to build even more pipelines to bypass the Strait.
Attack on Iran?
Rumors are flying all over the Internet, saying that Israel, or the USA, or both, will attack Iran in October. This could be an “October Surprise” from putative President Barack H. Obama. It could also explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has:
Formed a national unity government between his Union (Likud) Party and the opposition Forward (Kadima) Party.
AuthorizedRav Aluf Benny Ganz, the chief of staff of the Defensive Armies of Israel, to call up as many as 22 reserve battalions.
Netanyahu might be getting ready for the Iranians to hit back at Israel if either the Israelis or the Americans attack Iran.