Israel has purportedly agreed to allow sanctions time to work, and for Iran to voluntarily stop its nuclear weapons program. P5 +1 (UN Security Council, plus Germany) talks are expected to end by July or August. Senior Israel officials have purportedly said a pre-emptive strike would have to occur by this summer to be effective. By September, if Iran has not voluntarily stopped, Israel will commence preparations for a pre-emptive air attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. If Israel attacks Iran, the expected response from Iran would be to launch Shahab-3 ballistic missiles towards Israel, have its Hezbollah and Hamas proxies fire Katyusha missiles from closer range, and close the Straight of Hormuz. If Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, this would be considered and act of war against the United States, and draw the U.S. into the war.
The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian gulf with the gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and the open ocean. At its narrowest point, the strait is 21 miles wide, but the deep water shipping lane is two miles wide in either direction, separated by a two-mile buffer zone. 14 crude oil tankers a day, carrying 17 million barrels, pass through the strait, carrying 20 per cent of the world’s traded oil.
During U.S. directed war game simulations, it was anticipated Iran will use their three stealthy Russian-made Kilo-class submarines and small fast boats to mine the Strait of Hormuz and close it to ship traffic. The U.S. and British navy have brought twelve mine sweeper vessels into the theater, plus airborne mine countermeasure helicopters to keep Hormuz open.
Iran controls three fortified islands, Aba Musa, Lesser Tumb and Greater Tumb, which could be used as a base for helicopter, gunboat, and anti-ship cruse missile attacks. Some military experts refer to these Islands, at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, as Iran’s three aircraft carriers. They are unsinkable, and will require boots on the ground to neutralize.
If a shooting war breaks out in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the United States, the fortified island of Abu Musa could make front-page news. In addition to building an airstrip there, Iran has Chinese “Silkworm”
The Persian Gulf is basically a large lake, with one narrow outlet. U.S. navel vessels may find themselves trapped in the Gulf and venerable to Sunburn missiles, which have a range of approximately 100 miles. With two aircraft carriers in the Indian ocean, the U.S. navy will control the air space over Iran and the Persian Gulf. They will pound Iran military installations, and destroy the Iranian air force. However, without boots on the ground, the Iran Revolutionary Guard will be able to fire anti-ship missiles off the back of movable trucks. The Sunburn missile may be to the U. S. Navy, what the Stinger missiles was to the Soviet helicopter gunship’s and MiGs in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Dr. Talmadge, a Persian Gulf authority, at George Washington University, estimates it could take 72 days to remove Iran’s threat of missiles attacks, and 40 days for disabling Iran’s navel mines in the Strait of Hormuz. If the Persian Gulf was closed for shipping for 112 days, the price of oil would spike, and throw the world economy into a deep recession. If the U.S. lost several large navel vessels to relatively inexpensive missiles, cheaper to manufacture than an airplane, the traditional navy strategy of big armament would come under review. Given their low cost, Russian and Chinese anti-ship missiles are perfectly suited for close quarter navel conflicts in the pond like environment of the Persian Gulf.
The Sunburn is versatile and easy to use. It can be fired from practically any platform, including the back of a flatbed truck. It has a 100-mile range, which is all that is necessary in the narrow Persian Gulf. If Iran and the U.S. start a shooting war, Russia and China will watch with tremendous interest. The Iranians will have mapped every firing angle along their Gulf coastline. The rugged terrain will not make detection easy. Some suggest it will be like shooting fish in a barrel. The British have deployed the HMS Daring, a billion dollar destroyer, with the world’s most sophisticated naval radar, and defense weapons which can shoot down sea skimming missiles.
If Iran can keep the Hormuz straits blocked for longer than a nominal 112 days, U.S. allies may 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, and its reserve currency status. President Barack Obama may start a war in the Middle East, but President Mitt Romney may have to finish it.
Written by Dr. Stephen Johnston, author of “Tea Party Culture War: A clash of Worldviews.”
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