September 26, 2023

Iran just threatened unprecedented retaliation against the United States over Trump’s reckless attack

President Trump’s unilateral cancellation in May of the multi-national nuclear regulation pact with Iran negotiated under President Obama is leading to rapidly escalating tensions that could lead to an unwanted, unnecessary, destructive war involving the U.S. in the volatile Persian Gulf. 

Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz to all seagoing traffic. The narrow straight off its coast is, according to CNBC, “the world’s most important transit lane for crude oil.”

If Trump cuts all of its oil sales as it is threatening, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said his country is ready to disrupt crude (and natural gas shipments)  as well as end its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

More than 30 percent of the world’s oil moves through the Gulf, and in the case of Asian countries including China, India, and South Korea, it is 80 percent of the oil they buy. 

Any disruption, or even the threat of a disruption, can be expected to cause the price of gasoline in the U.S. to soar. 

The Pentagon is already talking tough and is likely to be backed by the hawks around Trump.

The U.S. Navy said it is ready to confront Iran with a military response if it tries to close the Strait.

“Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said Washington and its allies provided security in the region and would not stand idly by,” reports The Guardian.

“Together,” said Urban, “we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows,” he said.

If a military conflict erupts, it would not be the first time.

In 1988, at the end of Iran’s eight-year-long wars with Iraq, Iran shut the Strait to try and stop merchant ships in the Persian Gulf from moving materials and weapons to its enemy.

Iran put out ships to stop traffic and laid mines in the water.

When a U.S. ship was destroyed by a mine, U.S warships attacked with the biggest surface naval war since World War II, setting  Iranian oil platforms n fire and sunk or damaged half of Iran’s fleet of ships.

In 2011 and 2012, Iran again threatened to shut down the Strait as a result of sanctions by the U.S. and others over its development of nuclear weapons.

“The closure never came to pass,” reports CNBC, “as the Obama administration’s pressure campaign ultimately brought Iran to the negotiating table, yielding the 2015 nuclear accord.

The U.S. has forces nearby that could move quickly. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the U.S. Central Command’s operations for the region is at Al Udeid Air Base in nearby Qatar.

Now the situation is much more volatile, and there are leaders with hawkish views on both sides ready to take military actions. 

While the U.S. was able to resolve the situation in 1988, it is unclear if it can do the same again with a much more complex situation in the Middle East.

There is a lot of anger and little good will, and leaders who have an authoritarian view that they can act as they wish without worrying about the consequences to the global community.

Trump’s motivations to kill the Iran nuclear deal are murky. He said it was because it wasn’t good enough a deal for the U.S. but there are indications he was repaying his big backers who wanted to see the price of oil rise – and helping the neocons who salivate at the thought of regime change in Iran get closer to their heinous goal.

Whatever Trump thinks he is accomplishing, wars have a way of starting small like a forest fire in one area and then being blown up into a much larger conflagration.

This is a very dangerous situation and there seems to be no one to stop it from blowing up with a lot of unintended consequences. 

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.