Could Iran Block the Strait of Hormuz?

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted yesterday by Al Arabiya News as saying, that if it would be threatened, Iran would block the Strait of Hormuz.

The Strait of Hormuz is the narrow passage at the eastern end of the Persian Gulf between Bandar Abbas (Iran) and Musandam (Oman). On one point it is only 54 kilometers wide and an average of 15 crude oil tankers pass it every day, transporting 20% of the total world oil production. The US gets about 25% of its oil supply from the Persian Gulf, East Asia about 50%.

Iran has threatened to close this vital strategic sea-lane before and it is not a coincidence that the US have an entire fleet of their navy in the area, able to protect it. The 5th Fleet is part of CENTCOM, which additionally has under its command the 3rd Army, ten wings of the US Air Force, Marines, Special Operations Forces and so forth.

The air power the 5th Fleet alone is probably more than the entire Iranian Air Force would be able tackle. Although the USS Ronald Reagan’s Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) consists only of about 80 aircraft in total, the combat planes are modern Hornets and Super Hornets.

The Iranian Air Force on the other hand is huge on paper: more than 500 aircraft. But apart from about 30 Indian fighter planes, the rest of the inventory is at least 20 years old. The American  F-14 A’s, bought in the 70’s by the Shah, are reportedly in such a bad shape that they are only flown at air shows. There is certainly nothing remotely able to pose a real threat to the US air power. That does not even take into account the hardware of the US Air Force in the area.

The disparity at sea is even greater: apart from two new frigates and a number of Diesel-powered subs, there is nothing in the fleet list that could pose a serious danger to the US fleet. Again, many ships are remnants of the former Imperial Iranian Navy of the Shah.

And another thing should not be forgotten either: unlike the Iranian forces, the US soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines are in constant training because of an endless row of wars they fought in the last twenty years or so.

Yes, Iran could block the Strait of Hormuz, but certainly not for long. The Iran would be wise not to forget, that the US still maintain the most powerful armed forces on this planet and if the United States would be threatened by the loss of a quarter of their crude oil supply, there can be little doubt about the reaction.

(Comment by Johann Brandstatter, Middle East & Balkans News; 5 July 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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