In recent weeks, Iranian ships have harassed a number of American vessels in the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has responded that if such actions continued under his presidency, Iranian ships would be “shot out of the water.”
Such an approach would send a strong signal, but would also likely turn a minor incident into a significant international crisis, causing oil prices to skyrocket and potentially embroiling America in another major conflict in the Middle East. Fortunately, the United States has a number of options at its disposal that do not come with this type of risk, and that have proven in the past to be effective in deterring provocative Iranian behavior.
From a defensive standpoint, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz is Iran’s most effective form of conventional deterrence against conventional attacks. Closing the passageway through which 20 percent of the world’s oil production flows is the closest thing Iran has to a nuclear option. Just like the use of nuclear weapons, actually closing the strait would be suicidal for Iran’s navy, leading to an American-led international military response while also doing grave damage to Iran’s ability to export oil through the strait. But reminding its competitors, including Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States, that it has the capacity to set off a world economic crisis if attacked is useful to Iran.
Read the full article in The National Interest.
More from CNAS
ReportsIn Dire Straits?
In a joint report from CNAS and Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA, Ilan Goldenberg, Jessica Schwed, and Kaleigh Thomas assess what would happen to the...
By Ilan Goldenberg, Kaleigh Thomas & Jessica Schwed
CommentaryTrump Needs to Reestablish Deterrence with Iran
The attack attributed to Iran on Saudi Aramco oil facilities is the latest in a series of Iranian escalations—the May 14 and June 13 tanker attacks, the June 20 downing of a U...
By Kaleigh Thomas & Elisa Catalano Ewers
VideoNicholas Heras on Killing of ISIS Leader in U.S. Military Raid
The Center for a New American Security’s Nicholas Heras talked about the killing of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S. military raid in Syria. Listen to th...
By Nicholas Heras
PodcastDiscussing Turkey’s Offensive Against the Kurds in Syria with Nick Heras
The United States’ withdrawal and the Turkish military’s incursion into the Kurdish-controlled northeast have completely changed the balance of power in Syria. Without America...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Nicholas Heras