Military Challenges for Hydrocarbon Export from the Gulf - An Assessment of Iranian Motives and Methods of Causing Disrupt
The Gulf is a sub-region where crises - including wars - occur from time to time. Alarmist tones of warnings against inevitable war with Iran also appear on a regular basis. Although it seems that war rhetoric is only a theatrical play, one can never be sure that it will not break out accidentally; for example, when one side misreads the intentions of its enemy. Recent attacks on infrastructure and tanker hijacking clearly show that the situation is now extremely serious. A scenario of open hostilities is more likely than before and, at any moment, it could turn into an open confrontation. Another war in the Gulf - especially with a large and important country like Iran - would have global consequences. The Strait of Hormuz is the worlds vital oil artery. According to available data, in 2018, roughly 18 million barrels of oil left this narrow chokepoint every day. In this paper, it is argued that if a war breaks out, the main battlefield would be particularly the Gulf, where several countries - including the United States - are present. The main goal of this paper is to (1) present Irans broad policy in the Gulf - including its political, ideological, economic and military motives vis-a-vis the Gulf - as well as to (2) present and critically analyze possible methods of conducting a war in the region. It is stated in the paper that the naval dimension plays an important role, as it would be the Iranians first line of defense. No wonder that the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, called it a strategic force. From a military perspective, the fleet must secure two areas (1) the Gulf and the Oman Gulf, as well as (2) the Caspian Sea. From a defensive war point of view, the Gulf is more important. The Iranians have drawn conclusions from history especially from naval skirmishes with the United States during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, and the Iranians understood that using asymmetrical tactics in a naval campaign is the only feasible option. It is argued that the planners in Tehran are likely to understand that an open and direct engagement with the U.S. Navy would be suicide, and casualties would be much higher than those of operation "Praying Mantis" It is highly likely that in the case of war, Iran would also use "hit-and-run" tactics in its naval operations. Those operations would be based on deploying large numbers of small, high-speed and hard-to-detect boats equipped with missiles, mines (mainly from civilian boats) and torpedoes; flying boats (like the missile-equipped Bavar-2); potentially, suicide boats (also civilian); anti-ship missiles (naval-based and coastal batteries) and even oil spills against its enemy. It may also not be ruled out that Iran would in the future extensively use combat UAVs armed with either guided or unguided bombs, or anti-ship missiles. It is argued that all those methods would have devastating consequences for any hydrocarbon export from the Gulf.