When faced with heightened U.S. tensions or an extension of sanctions down through the years, Iran frequently threatened to shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping route. Amid the current tensions, Iran’s top general once again made the threat in late April. Given those threats and the fact that the strait has witnessed serious clashes in the past such as Operation Praying Mantis and the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988, just how strategically important is it?
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most important oil arteries and one of the biggest possible chokepoints to global supply. The Financial Times recently published data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence which shows that nearly 17 million barrels of oil passed through the narrow shipping lane each day in 2018. That is more than any other global chokepoint for seaborne crude with 15.7 million barrels transiting the Strait of Malacca every day and 4.6 million barrels passing through the Suez Canal.
Threats to shut down the Strait of Hormuz are taken seriously and if tankers cannot transit a chokepoint, it would have major repercussions such as an increase in oil prices. It isn’t just about oil. About a third of the world’s liquefied natural gas also passes through the strait.
Countries In Range Of Iranian Ballistic Missiles
As tensions heighten between Washington and Tehran, fears about a military clash in the Persian Gulf are growing. As part of its military arsenal, Iran maintains a sizable quantity of ballistic missiles. It is also known to have supplied its allies with short-range ballistic missiles, particularly Hezbollah.
Since the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, Iran is thought to have supplied the terrorist group with more than 100,000 rockets and missiles, some of which have the range to reach Tel Aviv from south Lebanon, according to a report from The Soufan Center.
That report also highlights the different types of ballistic missiles operated by Iran as well as their range. While they cannot match the 6,000 km range of North Korea’s Taepodong-2, Iranian missiles could prove a major threat to U.S. military installations across the Middle East, with the sprawling bases at Ul-Udeid southwest of Doha and Al Dhafra near Abu Dhabi well within reach. The report states that the system with the longest range is the Soumar cruise missile which is thought to have been derived from the Russian/Soviet Kh-55, several of which were illegally supplied by Ukraine in 2005. That missile is believed to have a range of 2,500 kilometers, as indicated in the above chart.