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Comments by Sully
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On “A Unique Take on Obama's Dual Crisis

JE,
Perhaps I'm more imaginative than the Iranians on the subject of mines. I hope so, or else the Navy would have to be prepared on an instant to destroy every small boat or semi-submersible capable of a 56 mile range that puts out to sea along a very long stretch of coast.

And, perhaps I'm too pessimistic about the willingness of civilian crews to transit a possible minefield.

"

JED,
I'm reassured that you're confident the Navy can handle mining in the strait. I never doubted that given time it can. The key question is how long the tankers would be held up. By a quick check 20%+ of the world's oil comes out through that strait. I suspect that even a few weeks, and certainly a few months, of no oil from the gulf would throw the world economy for a real loop even putting aside prices, by reason of scarcity and likely rationing which would be clumsy at best as all hasty governmental actions are.

Operation Endsweep in Haiphong Harbor apparently wasn't continuous so perhaps it could have been quicker; but it lasted five months. And there we were sweeping our own well understood mines.

Re enemy planted mines, I understand that an amphib operation in Kuwait was in part ruled out due to the difficulty expected in clearing an Iraqi laid field. And, I believe we had a ship disabled by one of those mines.

"

JED - "Mining the SOH is an act of war by international convention. "

What a quaint notion in an era when our president just gave a speech pretty much making the NATO and SEATO treaties dead letters.

I'm trying to visualize how the New York Times will describe that convention without calling it "a scrap of paper;" assuming that there is an adult in charge of editorial when the story is ready to be cleared for publication.

The Iranians have apparently been sending explosively formed projectile weapons to be used against our troops in Iraq, and they have been sending aid to Hezbollah to foment the death of Israelis, not to mention the unpleasantness back in Carter's day. I'm not sure I see how violating an arcane scrap of paper will necessarily qualify as a more stark act of war. Then too there is the question of whether, absent a president very determined and international minded like HW Bush, who probably traded away his electability in promising the give up of his no new taxes pledge, it will be possible to muster a majority vote in congress.

A third or more of Obama's party would view the closing of the strait and a resultant long global recession as a healthy thing on the CO2 emissions/alternative energy development front, for one thing. And the constituents of a lot of farming state senators would find themselves in an interesting conflict of interest position as ethanol and thus grain prices shot through the roof. 'Tis true that all would have to tsk, tsk mightily about starving third world masses on the way to the Starbucks and the bank respectively; but some things must simply be borne.

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CK - "If Julius Caesar was president, Iran wouldn’t dare mine the Strait of Hormuz"

The whole argument about Iran getting nukes is premised on the possibility that the mullahs will at worst attack Israel (certain result - national suicide - at least in my opinion) or at best use that capability to overawe their nearby neighbors and thus substantially control all of the mideast oil for a time even as they set off a nuke building spree by everybody in the region that will make the world interesting indeed. Neither of those actions would be the work of folks not willing to risk big.

Plus, I don't think there is any leader currently on the scene who would threaten to annihilate Iran in retaliation for a merely economic catastrophe. And I think gaining credibility for that threat would be unlikely in any event. People just don't think in a way likely to attach much credence to such a threat, especially mullahs who walk to the mosque.

As to the varying oil price predictions they're probably generated by the fact that no one can predict with any certainty how the world economy would react to a big and likely long oil price rise and the speed with which alternatives could be developed.

A point I didn't make in the previous comment is that all other Iranian mischief making capabilities are trivial next to the ability to block that strait.

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If Iran can build nuclear weapons and IRBMs it can build naval mines that will deny use of the Straits of Hormuz for a long time and that will require a major naval effort to clear.

If Iran has put any serious effort into mine warfare (as they apparently have by the looks of what I found with a quick google search) any intervention will be damaging to the world economy on a scale that will make Iraq look like a day in the park.

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