NYT, Jan. 3, 2012: Iran Warns the United States Over Aircraft Carrier
“Iran’s military sharpened its tone toward the United States on Tuesday, bluntly warning an American aircraft carrier that left the Persian Gulf through the strategic Strait of Hormuz last week not to return.”
We’re starting out the new year with a high stakes game of poker. If you don’t see the shades of the days leading up to the outbreaks of WWI and WWII, the Gulf War and our invasion of Iraq, you haven’t been paying attention.
Let’s be clear about the circumstance on the ground or, in this case, the water. The Strait of Hormuz, just 34 miles wide, guard the only access point to the Persian Gulf. Critical supplies of oil recovered by Arab-Islamic nations are routinely shipped through this narrow strait to support the engines of Western economies. In terms of international law, the waters constituting the traits are territorial and not international. No agreements otherwise are in effect. The principal by which safe passage through this oil supply choke-point is based in “might makes right”.
Now on to today’s game…
Iran makes an opening bet.
“We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf. The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning.”
The U. S. matches the Iranian bet.
“The deployment of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades. The U.S. Navy operates under international maritime conventions to maintain a constant state of high vigilance in order to ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce.”
It seems almost certain that at some point in the near future, the U.S. will call Iran’s hand by ordering one or more of its warships to transit the Straits of Hormuz. The question of course: Is Iran bluffing or will she actually do something when U.S. ships sail?
Is the U. S. ready to undertake a shooting war with Iran?
Iran knows that the prospect of such an engagement will figure greatly in today’s game, as the U. S. demobilizes its forces in a still unstable Iraq and struggles to regain its footing with its Pakistani alliance in its Afghan war.
Add to all this the uncertainty produced by broken governments in neighboring Egypt and Syria, the changing alignments of Turkey, the increasing fear of mortal attack by Israel and the vulnerabilities of Western industrial powers to disruptions in oil supplies, and you have the makings of a perfect storm.
Iran has been a keen observer of 10 years of U. S. war-making in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has surely drawn some conclusions about how she might fare in a widened war that is ongoing despite the fact the U. S. has declared at least the Iraq part of the war over—twice!
Thirty-five years ago president Jimmy Carter declared the challenge of energy “the moral equivalent of war.” Carter was far from a lonely voice calling for strenuous action. After the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, both of his predecessors, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, called energy the nation’s top priority and set an ambitious goal for “energy independence” by 1980.
So how are we doing? Not very well!