If Israel attacks Iran, we must evacuate our naval ships from the Persian Gulf before the Strait of Hormuz is blocked by damaged or sunken oil tankers. As you can see from the above closeup from Google Earth, the shipping lanes take a sharp corner that I believe must be navigated at a reduced speed for large ships. The shipping lanes are already very narrow due to the numerous islands and partially submerged rocks. We want to avoid a repeat of the Costa Concordia incident.
Once the Strait is closed, it will require weeks or months to clear the wreckage, especially under hostile conditions. During that time our ships will be targets for Iranian missiles and small boats. I believe that our naval aviation will easily defeat the Iranian air force, but their missiles and torpedoes will put our navy to a severe test. I don’t know how effective their defenses are; let us use 95% as an example. That means for every hundred Iranian missiles launched at US ships, 95 will be destroyed without damage to our ships and 5 will not, and will cause damage. Even if our effectiveness is 99%, one in one hundred missiles will reach its target.
Then imagine in a numbers game that Iranians launch hundreds of missiles at one time to overwhelm the US defenders. Can our ships survive that sort of attack? I don’t want to find out. The sinking or severe damage to an US nuclear aircraft carrier could cause more casualties than occurred on 9-11.
GOP voters are having a hard time making up their minds this year. Their indecision is reflected in rapidly changing polls and daily, if not hourly, changes in who is considered a leading contender. In the long run, I doubt that it will matter who they choose as their nominee, Barack will be re-elected, see my post Charmed life. Ronald Reagan’s name is mentioned often as a model, but he was too pragmatic for today’s ideologues. The GOP is really seeking someone like Barry Goldwater, but what they will give us is another Herbert Hoover.
What truly worries me is the effort by some in the Neocon branch of the GOP to launch another preemptive war, this time against Iran. In my judgment, they want hostilities with Iran before the election for the sole reason to blame President Obama for the results and advance the chances of their nominee to defeat him. If there is any good coming from the war, they will claim credit and blame Obama for the bad, and bad there will be.
Any hostilities in the Persian Gulf will cause gas prices to spike and likely will cause shortages leading to rationing. This will tip the world’s economies back into recession or worse. Anything to regain power and the White House.
The Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and Oman is the narrow (roughly 30 miles wide) sole entrance and exit to the Persian Gulf from which approximately 20% of the world’s oil is shipped to the industrialized world. As you can see on the maps above, it is a narrow dogleg to the east and south and contains numerous islands. Iran is threatening to close the Strait in response to the US and Western embargo which is being used to hurt the Iranian economy and purports to persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons.
Even the threat of an interruption in oil shipments will be sufficient to drive up prices because insurance for the ships transiting the Strait will increase. If by accident or design, hostilities breakout in the area, insurance rates will skyrocket and some or many ship-owners will refuse to endanger their ships. The US military should be able to keep the Strait open for military shipping, but commercial shipping will be severely disrupted. Remember that 20% of the world’s oil passes through the Strait and the gas shortage that caused panic buying in the US was only a 4% decrease from the year before.
For those who don’t remember 1979 or were too young to drive, permit me to refresh memories. Motorists could not be sure that gas would be available, so most motorists tried to keep their gas tanks as full as possible. This led to long lines at the gas stations that had fuel for sale. Fights often broke out as some motorists tried to jump ahead in line. I witnessed one altercation myself when another driver cut in line in front of me. I did not want to start a fight, but other drivers around me did.
Finally, some states introduced systems to reduce panic buying. In California, license plates ending in even numbers could only purchase gas on even numbered days, and odd numbered plates on odd days of the month. Personalized and other plates were assigned to be either even or odd. When gas stations had sold out, they closed for the day. It was odd to drive past dark gas stations when in the past they had been brightly lighted 24 hours per day.
Gas prices spiked and the 55 mile per hour speed limit remained in effect from 1973 to 1995. All this from only a 4% decline in gas availability. Just think what a larger decrease could mean now on the price of gas and our fragile economy. Iran could easily disrupt shipping in the Strait of Hormuz by sowing mines and by the use of swarms of small, speedy boats to attack oil tankers and our fleet. The Persian Gulf is not a safe place for our navy.