Iran, Oil, and the Strait of Hormuz
March 26, 2007
The “Persian” or “Arabian” Gulf creates major strategic uncertainties for Iran, its neighbors, and the world. It is a 600-mile-long body of water that separates Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, and one of the most strategic waterways in the world due to its importance in world oil transportation. Incidents in the Gulf can escalate quickly in ways that neither Iran nor its potential opponents intend. Iran’s actions in Lebanon and in dealing with Hamas and the PIJ can provoke other unintended crises, and Iran is caught up in a broader, Sunni-dominated struggle for the future of Islam where some key Sunni Islamist extremist movements deny the legitimacy of Shi’ite beliefs. Military history is rarely determined by intentions and policy in peacetime, and crisis management often becomes an oxymoron as event spiral out of control, misperceptions dominate actions, and escalation becomes both asymmetric and an end in itself.