Azerbaijan, Baku, March 4 / Trend T.Konyayeva /
Iran's threats to block access to the Strait of Hormuz do not affect fluctuations in world oil prices, as they are political posturing and not well founded, experts say.
"The statement itself would not affect the oil market," Northeastern University professor Kamran Dadkhah told Trend via e-mail. "There are daily a fluctuation in the price of oil, attributing a small increase in the price to any particular factor is dubious."
Earlier this week, the oil price rose by more than one percent and reached $80 per barrel on the backdrop of threats from Iran that it can block the energy supply to Europe. On Sunday, Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Deputy Commander Hussein Salami said that Iran, which is the fourth largest oil exporter in the world, can interrupt oil supplies to Europe and send missiles to any hostile power.
Dadkhah said that in case of war and Iran's attempt to close the strait, there will be a short period of disruption. At the same time he reminded that such a confrontation may cut off Iran's 2 million barrels a day of oil export and deprive Iran from its oil revenue as well the possibility of importing needed goods including gasoline.
Moreover, he believes that Iran will not take any action to disrupt the flow of oil, as it will affect not only European countries but also China. In addition, such an action will be a declaration of war on all oil exporting countries on the shores of the Persian Gulf.
Hormuz is a strategically important strait, connecting the Gulf of Oman in the southeast with the Persian Gulf in the southwest. The strait's length is195 kilometers and its narrowest place is about 54 kilometers. The strait is divided into two transport channels with of width of about 2.5 km each, separated from each other by five-kilometer buffer zone. At the moment, the strait is the only sea route allowing exporting Arab oil and gas to the third countries, particularly to the United States.
Based on 2006 data, 33 percent of global oil exports shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. Given the oil products, then 40 percent of global oil exports by sea and up to 80 percent of the region's oil fell to the strait.
Iranian officials frequently make threats that they never carry out, President of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran Kenneth Timmerman believes.
"Since the early 1980s, they have repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz," he told Trend via e-mail. "Usually, they make these threats when they face financial difficulties in the hope of sparking an increase in the price of oil on the international market."
Famous Arab politician and analyst Husni Mahalli also believes Iran's threats to close the Strait of Hormuz are not serious and the Iranian side makes similar statements every time when Washington begins to develop a new plan to expand cooperation with the gulf countries, thereby increasing its presence in the Persian Gulf.
"Iran started voice threats and after that U.S officials visited the gulf countries and discussed a $7-billion sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar and other countries in the region," he told Trend over the phone.
In mid-February, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a four-day tour to the gulf countries. The main theme of her talks with representatives of Arab and other Islamic countries was Iran's nuclear program. In Doha, Clinton spoke at the U.S.-Islamic World forum organized by the Qatari authorities, and then the U.S. secretary of state went to Saudi Arabia, where she held talks with the country's leadership.
According to Mahalli, Iran is aware that the closure of the Gulf of Hormuz will lead to serious consequences, but at the same time the Iranian side prevents the transport of oil through the strait, especially after Saudi Arabia decided to build new reservoirs outside the gulf to cut the Arab countries' dependence on the Strait of Hormuz.
"In the past few years, Iran has made similar statements, and the Arab country in response threatening to take retaliatory action, as in the case with the Strait of Hormuz," he said. "Diplomatic statements differ from concrete steps."
However, experts agree that in case of an attack on Iran or a strengthening of the blockade by the United States and other countries, the Iranian government as a respond may deploy military operations in the Persian Gulf and try to close the Strait of Hormuz for a short period of time, because Tehran is not able to close access to the Straits for a long time.
"But if Iran is attacked, the Iranian government will try to retaliate in the Persian Gulf as well as in Lebanon and Gaza," Dadkhah said. "One action would be to attack American bases in the Persian Gulf and the other is to try to close the Strait of Hormuz."
He noted that Iran may interfere with the smooth navigation in the Persian Gulf in two ways: by threatening and sinking passing ships by artillery and missiles on the Iranian shore, by attacking them from the air or by ships and submarines patrolling the area, or by sinking ships to close navigation lines of the strait.
"In the first case, the Iranian military could not stand up to the U.S. forces and the strait will be kept open. The second option is difficult to carry out as the strait is about 54-kilometers wide. But, at any rate, the United States with help from all countries affected will open the strait within 24 to 48 hours", Dakhah added.
According to Timmerman, most military analysts admit that Iran could manage to close the strait temporarily by using some combination of sea mines, attacks by "swarms" of small powerboats equipped with small rockets, and anti-shipping missiles fired from coastal batteries.
"The Iranian regime knows that the purpose of a special naval task force of the United States, NATO and other powers located in the region over a decade is to guarantee continued access to the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz," he said."The naval task force serves as a deterrent of sorts but only for so long as the regime chooses to be deterred."
It should be noted that in mid-February Iran commissioned Jamaran destroyer for the Iranian Navy. The handover ceremony was held in the Persian Gulf. The Jamaran destroyer was designed and manufactured by Iranian experts. Fars news agency named the destroyer the largest defense project and said that a second destroyer is under development. This destroyer is able to fight objects above and under water, as well as in the air. Also, the destroyer may carry helicopters and it can be used in "e-war.
According to the experts, it is important to develop alternative routes for transporting oil to avoid possible problems arising in the case of Iran's decision to block access to the Strait of Hormuz.
Dadkhah noted that in the short run, the world should be prepared to take action to reopen the strait. "I believe all that can be done is done. In the long run, the world needs to diversify its sources of energy by using more nuclear power, and by finding other routes of transportation," he added.
Timmerman also thinks that it is critical to develop alternate routes of bringing regional oil supplies to outside markets. "This is why the approach of the Azerbaijan government and the Saudi government to build pipelines that bypass the Strait of Hormuz make strategic good sense," he said.
He believes no one can give a 100 percent sure answer to a question "would Iran actually carry out its threats?" "That is why the threats are so effective." he said
The current Iranian regime has shown that it can behave in a manner that most countries would find irrational.
"The current Iranian regime has shown that it can behave in a manner that most countries would find irrational," Timmerman said. I keep reminding my friends in positions of power that when analyzing the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership, we should avoid 'mirror-imaging that is, the fallacy that they think and reason and use the same cost-benefit analysis that we do. They don't".
U.Sadykhova contributed to the article.