Written by: Jacob Kleinman
Over the last few weeks the political climate between the United States and Iran has gone from bad to worse following the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s declaration that they have successfully produced their first nuclear fuel rod. According to an article in the Jerusalem Post (Israel’s primary English-language newspaper), Israel and the US are working together towards a “military exercise” in the Spring in which thousands of US soldiers will be deployed to Israel along with US army machinery.
Iran’s nuclear agency has stated that the rod, a tube containing pellets of enriched uranium that provides the fuel for a nuclear reactor, will be used to generate nuclear power. Despite these claims, the US and Europe believe that Iran is, and always has been, working towards the construction of nuclear missiles.
For the time being the United States and Europe are planning to boycott Iranian oil, which fuel’s the country’s otherwise crumbling economy, in order to curtail its nuclear ambitions. Iranian officials have responded by equating the oil embargo to “economic war,” and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi defiantly stated on Thursday that his country would “weather the storm.”
Even Asian countries such Japan, South Korea and China have agreed to seek out alternative crude oil suppliers under growing pressure from the US. These three countries, along with India, important more than 60 percent of Iran’s oil exports, and have approached other nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, about purchasing oil following the increasingly tense political situation.
However, Iran still has an ace up its sleeve. The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow opening which connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian sea and the rest has been the recent setting for war games conducted by Iran’s navy. About 14 tankers carrying 15.5 million barrels of oil (coming from other countries as well as Iran) travel through the sea passage every day; that’s 20 percent of the world’s crude oil.
What exactly would happen if Iran decided to blockade the Hormuz straight is unclear, as is how long the Iranian army could maintain control of the passage. Iranian Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi has stated, “We won’t disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. We are not after this.”
As the situation intensifies and the theoretical oil embargo becomes a reality the region’s future seems unclear. It should come as no surprise that the United States is seeking to establish a military presence within reach of Iran in order to squash any nuclear activity and maintain the stability of the global oil market.