October 04, 2016

Don't Shoot Iran's Naval Provocateurs

America has learned how to defuse these situations.

By Ilan Goldenberg

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.

  • Podcast
    • January 17, 2020
    Stories from the Backchannel: Season Two Trailer

    By Ilan Goldenberg, Richard Fontaine, Susanna V. Blume, Kayla M. Williams, Price B. Floyd, Kurt Campbell & Kara Frederick

  • Commentary
    • Defense One
    • January 17, 2020
    Sending Troops Back to the Middle East Won’t Stop Iran

    The Trump administration’s decision to kill Qassam Soleimani is the latest in an escalatory “maximum pressure” Iran strategy that is shifting American foreign policy attention...

    By Chris Dougherty & Kaleigh Thomas

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • January 14, 2020
    Trump Has Made Sanctions a Path to Strikes

    U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to kill the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, the architect of Iran’s political and military influence in the Middle East, and the Irani...

    By Elizabeth Rosenberg & ​Neil Bhatiya

  • Commentary
    • CNN
    • January 13, 2020
    Congress has to figure out whether Trump's four embassy claim is real

    The targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, carried with it significant potential to serve as a catalyst for a br...

    By Carrie Cordero

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia