Because 35 percent of all the oil that is transported by sea flows out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, some think that Iran has the rest of the world, well, over the oil barrel. This writer is not so sure about that.
But first, credit where it is due: This column is informed, in part, by a seminar for the executives and producers of NBC-TV presented by General Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret.), from material gained from the Association of Retired Intelligence Officers (AFIO), from Stratfor.com, a private intelligence-gathering company, from some flag officer friends, from my civil-engineer cousin, and from the CIA World Book of Facts.
Now, some facts about the Strait of Hormuz: It is only 21 miles wide. It has two oil shipping lanes each two-miles-wide. Could the Iranian Navy use its three SSK Kilo attack submarines and anti-ship missiles to close the Strait? Yes, Iran possesses sufficient naval and air forces to close the Strait to shipping.
Could one of those Russian-built Kilo submarines sink a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier? Yes. Kilos can lie silent and undetected on the ocean bottom for considerable periods of time. One of our carriers sailing unsuspectingly over a Kilo could result in the loss of about 6,000 American men and women. Would that result in war between the U.S. and Iran? Yes. Even the limp-noodle, current administration would have no choice. Besides, President Obama's re-election would be a slam dunk.
Could there be an upside to closure? Yes, provided we don't go to war over it. Then, who gains? Who loses? Initially, the world price of oil would skyrocket. Red China and Japan would suffer the worst. American motorists and truckers would suffer for awhile until they pressure the anti-fossil-fuel environmental movement in this country to give into the fact that between the U.S. and Canada we are sitting on enough fossil-fuels to meet our own energy needs and that of much of the world well beyond 2250. The U.S. and Canada can produce more oil than Saudi Arabia ever thought about having. If we got our oil-production rear in gear, we would be driving on $2 gas and our overall economy would blossom.
If we build the Keystone XL pipeline, heavy crude oil would flow downhill to Cushing, Okla., and on to Texas. After it is refined, oil is much lighter and easier to pipe in any direction. What if we don't allow the Keystone XL pipeline? Canada, up to his hips in oil sand, will pipe the oil to Vancouver and ship it directly to Red China and Japan. More ships like the Exxon Valdez mean more chances of oil spoils. Pipelines are environmentally safer.
Ergo: We have within our grasp to make the Persian Gulf so irrelevant that no more American men and women would be dying over there. Moreover, oil-dependent Red China and Japan would turn to the U.S. and Canada for their oil. The current taxes on the U.S. oil industry would begin to retire our currently staggering national debt which, by the way, equals our current Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Would some stock-holders and corporations profit? You bet. It's called: capitalism. That's the rising tide that President Kennedy (D) said lifts all boats.
Unfortunately, Putin's Russia would benefit because even Russia's inefficient oil industry would become more profitable and the Europeans even more beholden to Putin. What about Israel? If Iran cuts off its major source of income, funding Hezbollah or attacking Israel directly becomes less affordable.
In the long run, closing the Strait of Hormuz might work to our benefit. So, if the Iranian Mullahs are smart, they will leave it open.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.