Iran Mining Of Strait Would Pose Great Challenge, Analysis Says

Iran Mining Of Strait Would Pose Great Challenge, Analysis Says
September 15th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iran Mining Of Strait Would Pose Great Challenge, Analysis Says

Iran Mining Of Strait Would Pose Great Challenge, Analysis Says
September 12, 2008
By Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News
Iran's mining of the Strait of Hormuz would be far more difficult and time-consuming to counter than the U.S. military acknowledges, according to a new analysis.
Clearing Iranian mines from the strait, through which one-fifth of the world's oil travels daily, could take almost four months, roil energy markets and risk a full war, according to an article in ``International Security,'' a journal published by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
``The notion that Iran could truly blockade the strait is wrong -- but so too is the notion that U.S. operations in response to any Iranian action would be short and simple,'' Caitlin Talmadge, a doctoral candidate in political science at MIT, writes in the current edition of the quarterly.
Israel's deputy prime minister said last month that Iran's nuclear program poses an ``unacceptable'' danger to Israel. Iran has said that if its nuclear sites are attacked, it may blockade the chokepoint at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. U.S. military officials say the strait wouldn't be closed for long, if at all.
Iran ``will not be allowed to close it,'' then-U.S. Fifth Fleet Commander Admiral Kevin Cosgriff said June 30. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2 that, while Iran has the military capability to ``hazard'' the waterway, ``I believe the ability to sustain that is not there.''
Talmadge estimated that Iran might be able to lay about 700 mines before U.S. detection. ``If Iran is able to lay even a small number of mines, we have problems,'' she said.
To find and destroy Iran's land-based radar and cruise missiles as well as its small boats that could attack U.S. and allied mine-clearance vessels would require a sustained air and naval campaign, Talmadge said.
``It could take many weeks, even months to restore the full flow of commerce and more time still for the oil markets to be convinced that stability has returned,'' she wrote.
The likely effect would be ``a significant rise in oil prices not because of an actual supply disruption but because of the anticipation of one,'' she wrote. ``Tankers would probably still be able to get in and out but the passage may be more dangerous.''
Defense analysts say Talmadge is largely correct.
The assessment underscores that U.S. military success, while assured, would take time, said James Phillips, a defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation in Washington who has written on Iranian naval forces, the strait and oil trade.
``Meanwhile the oil markets would go crazy and the price of oil would spike, driving up the costs to the United States and other oil importers,'' he said.
Talmadge ``is right on her main points,'' said Harold Lee Wise, author of a Naval Institute-published book on the 1980s conflict between Iran and U.S. Navy ships protecting tankers. He said she presents a good analysis of the capabilities and tactics of each side. ``The most serious threats are missiles first, mines and small boats -- in that order,'' he said.
``Iran doesn't have to `close' the strait to hurt the U.S.,'' he said.
The article's significance is reflected in its venue, Wise said. ``Appearing in International Security lends credibility to an informative, timely work. It also ensures the article will be read by influential people in the government and military,'' he said.
Commander Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said the analysis ``is a scholarly, well- written look at this strategically important part of the world'' but is based on unclassified sources.
``Our military planning takes into consideration much more broad and comprehensive assessments of Iranian capabilities and threats,'' she said.
The U.S. has a squadron of four mine-sweepers in the gulf, and British vessels are there, Campbell said.
``We routinely train to counter mining anywhere'' in the region with ship and airborne technologies, and ``we are prepared to flow forces into the region as needed,'' she said.

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