Eight major maritime chokepoints, through which oil tankers transit, exist globally. Seventeen million barrels of oil daily pass through one of them – the Strait of Hormuz.
Located off the coast of Iran, situated between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, uninterrupted oil flow through it provides an energy lifeline for Asia and Europe.
Little publicized, however, is this: In a 2002 effort to keep the Strait open against Iranian forces, the U.S. Navy was soundly defeated – losing sixteen ships in the process!
Fortunately, this effort was only a war game called “Millennium Challenge” – an exercise that cost $250 million and took two years to prepare. But so shocked were war gamers at this result, they immediately changed the rules of the game to effect a different outcome.
Needless to say, the initial result represented a major turnaround from a 1988 confrontation involving both naval forces in which the U.S. Navy decisively defeated Iran. It also explains the confidence with which Iran recently threatened to close the Strait to the U.S. and its allies.
Sadly, lessons learned from Millennium Challenge appear to have been lost. In the last fourteen years, Iranian assets needed to block the Strait have drastically increased as U.S. Navy assets decreased.
The war game made clear Tehran has an effective chokepoint formula to disrupt oil flow through the Strait. And, with elements of that formula having now increased in Iran’s favor, only one element potentially to alter this outcome, which was left out of the 2002 war game, remains to offset this Iranian advantage.
It should be no surprise, however, President Barack Obama has minimized our opportunity to introduce this element into the equation. Consequently, it will be incumbent upon his successor, first, to repair the damage Obama has done so we can utilize it, and, second, to then maximize this element’s capability.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has rallied a coalition of 34 Islamic states to defeat terrorism. As it does not include Iran or two other nations – Syria and Iraq – where Tehran wields influence, it is clear on whose terrorism the coalition is focusing.
As the Saudis take such action, also buying U.S. military equipment, cooperating with the U.S. on global energy policies, and working with Israel on mutual security matters, Obama should be offering encouragement – not criticism.
It is no wonder, therefore, that these Arab leaders now tend to ignore Obama and turn to a more decisive leader – Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It is an interesting shift in geopolitics since Putin has only strengthened Iran’s regional influence and since the U.S. has significantly more military capability in the region. It is most telling, therefore, that Putin is perceived as a better ally than Obama.
Millennium Challenge exposed a major U.S. weakness in preventing Iran’s chokehold on oil flowing through the Strait of Hormuz. The challenge now is to counter it by creating a relationship with our Arab partners that maximizes their self-defense capabilities to fight alongside ours.
Full article: Popping the Iranian Cork in the Strait of Hormuz (Family Security Matters)