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Strait of Hormuz

With the prospect of Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities looming, Tehran has renewed its threat to shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which up to 40 percent of the world’s oil supplies pass, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The strait is a 112-mile-long, horseshoe-shaped, six-mile-wide strategic water passageway located between Iran to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south. It is one of the world’s most strategic – and vulnerable – shipping chokepoints.

Through it, two-fifths of the world’s oil supplies pass en route to consumers. On any given day, some 15 giant oil tankers reportedly carry 17 million barrels of oil.

While the threat from Iranian authorities isn’t new, the fact that it could be blocked, even temporarily, comes at a bad time for the world economy in which a spike in energy prices, even for a short time, could have a detrimental impact.

If Israel or the United States were to attack its nuclear facilities, then “definitely the shipment of energy from this region will be seriously jeopardized,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned.

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The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, has installed surface-to-air and anti-ship missile batteries along Iran’s southern border facing the Strait. In addition, the IRGC is assessed to have several hundred Chinese-made C-801 anti-ship cruise missiles deployed along the waterway and on islands in the Strait and on its own warships. Iran also has a major naval base at Bandar Abbas at the bend in the Strait which also would be used in any anti-ship action.

Further, Iran has small craft which can swarm merchant vessels and launch torpedoes. In addition to various assortments of anti-ship missiles, the Iranians may have been equipped with Russian-made and Chinese-copied torpedoes capable of traveling some 300 miles an hour.

Called by the Russian name Shkval, the torpedo is, in effect, an underwater missile due to supercavitation in which the torpedo travels in a gas bubble generated by the special design of its warhead. Supercavitation minimizes drag, thereby allowing the torpedo to travel at such speeds.

“(Blockage) is (Iran’s) ace in the hole, they know it and hold the world hostage by it,” said Fariborz Saremi of the International Strategic Studies Association based in Washington, D.C.

“No one should or is ignoring the threat and strategic implications,” he said. “If there is a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, most likely they will play their ace, but if they are trumped, they lose.”

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