After being threatened with sanctions on its oil exports by the United States, Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani has issued a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz. United States President Donald Trump has asked countries to stop importing oil products from Iran by 4 November 2018. The economic sanctions are part of the United States’ pressure on Iran to cut down its nuclear development program.
The United States under the administration of Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was signed by the Obama administration with Iran in 2015.
A closure of the Strait of Normuz would mean Iran would deploy mines in order to make the route impassable. From there, Iran could use land-based anti-ship missiles to intimidate or discourage enemy warships and civilian ships from passing through.
Iran has a large fleet of small but fast attack warships. These ships are not heavily armed but are fast and mobile enough to overwhelm and frustrate larger warships.
As a last resort, Iran could conceivably target civilian centres and military facilities around the area with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
Despite the threat, the chances of a closure of the Strait are very low. Iran knows quite well that the United States and its allies have long prepared for such a scenario.
To attempt to use military force and deploy its navy would mean a quick and devastating defeat for Iran. Other than the lives at stake, the economic consequences of a conflict at the Strait of Hormuz will be very high for Iran.
The threat may appear to be more of a last ditch, desperate attempt on Iran’s part to bluff the United States and its allies to reconsider the sanctions.
Historically, Iran had previously threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in 2012 where as a show of force, the regime conducted military exercises in the area. The United States, United Kingdom, and France responded by deploying their respective military forces in the area.
A few years later, the United States and Iran signed the JCPOA.