The Hormuz Straits: Winners and Losers in this Zone of Conflict
When the Arab oil producing countries in the 70's began their embargo and quit producing oil that fed the West, the shock was felt at all levels. Prices skyrocketed creating very long lines for consumers to get gas, spending hours just to get a quota for an abnormally high price. The shock had all sorts of ripple effects. In America, it was a real "wake up" call to their oil addiction, which exists.
Fast forward to 2010 or beyond. Times have changed yet we are still addicted to Arab oil. Most of this oil is pumped out from wells and loaded onto tankers and super tankers and carried along the narrow sea lanes of the Persian Gulf that Iran claims as their own and through the even narrower Hormuz Straits. Numerous choke points riddle the whole passage and even the US Navy needs to carefully navigate to stay out of iran's territorial waters. Thus, Iran is in a most unique position. It can easily with little effort disrupt the oil flow by simply firing its numerous anti-ship missiles at the helpless tankers. Take a few out in minutes. Spill millions of gallons of oil causing an environmental calamity. It could simply suddenly launch its short and mid-range missiles at any of the oil fields well within their range.
By doing so, the winner is Russia and Iran. Russia gains in Iran's dependence on Russian gas and oil, worse, Europe which already uses Russian oil and gas, will rely on it even more as the oil transport is disrupted. Iran wins simply by doing this and knowing the US and others really cannot do much. China loses because Iran could make it more expensive for China to import Iran's oil and gas since China's alternate sources are in disarray. Iran wins because it has now used its military power to control the world's oil supplies by disrupting it. This invokes a powerful, long lasting threat. The threat will force countries with oil to become more "pro" towards Iran out of fear and not be "pro" US. The US is a loser because not much can be done without making the delicate situation even far worse. It loses because it also goes into shock when world oil prices zoom up and make the 70's look cheap. The US also becomes more isolated amongst the allied nations because of self interest. Russia has a keen interest with Iran, as Iran relies more on Russia. European nations also tend to rely on Russia for oil and gas. All this weakens the relationship with the US and this empowers Russia.
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