Analysis

Iran: Playing Chicken in the Strait of Hormuz
The U.S.S. John C. Stennis is seen as it allegedly went 'inside the maneuver zone' where Iranian ships were conducting 10 days of naval war games in the Persian Gulf, according to Iranian officials. An Iranian general warned the Stennis on January 3 not to return to the Persian Gulf. (AFP/Getty Images)
January 13, 2012
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
Summary
Iran is unlikely to intentionally provoke a conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, but it risks starting one by a strategic miscalculation.

Iran has been playing a game of “chicken” in the Persian Gulf with its multiple threats to close the Strait of Hormuz. The Obama administration has taken no chances, relaying a message to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei through an unnamed envoy that closing the Strait would be a "red line" that would force the United States to respond.

Although Iran’s provocations have caused small increases in the price of oil, they ultimately stem from a position of weakness. U.S.-led economic sanctions have caused a major drop in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial, while persistent international isolation has left Iran with few allies abroad and a divided political system at home. Nevertheless, Iran’s threats are serious, and if not handled properly, could lead to broader regional conflict. To close the strait, Iran is likely considering an asymmetric strategy similar to what it tried during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. In response to the Iranian threat, the United States will hold joint naval exercises with Israel next month and will deploy a new type of high-altitude drone to monitor Iranian naval movements.

ALSO CHECK OUT:
CIA Director Hayden: Inaction on Iran More Dangerous Than Action.
(January 12, 2011)

Erratic Iranian Behavior Points to a Volatile and Dangerous Year Includes assessmments from Ambassador John Bolton, CIA Director Michael Hayden, and Ambassador Otto Reich.  (January 3, 2011)

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