The White House has sent an assurance to Iran via a clandestine line of communication that it would face a response from the United States if it shuttered the Strait of Hormuz, reports the New York Times
. U.S. officials have not said if Iran has responded.
The administration has publicly stated that following through on its threats to close the strait would, in effect, draw a “red line” across the important waterway between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, where 16 million barrels of oil, about 20 percent of the world’s supply, pass every day.
Both Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently suggested that a military response would be forthcoming if the strait were closed.
Analysts and administration officials continue to believe Iran’s threats amount to saber rattling, since closing the strait would shut of its oil exports and essential supplies like food.
“They would basically be taking a vow of poverty with themselves,” said Dennis B. Ross, former top adviser to President Barack Obama on Iran. “I don’t think they’re in such a mood of self-sacrifice.”
Dempsey acknowledged that Iran has the military capability to close the strait, and analysts estimate it would take anywhere from a day to months for U.S. forces to reopen it. Observers agree that in the end, U.S. forces would vanquish Iran’s, but not without possible casualties.
“Their surface fleet would be at the bottom of the ocean, but they could score a lucky hit,” said Michael Connell, director of the Iranian studies program at the Center for Naval Analysis. “An antiship cruise missile could disable a carrier.”
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