Although blocking or disrupting oil movement in the Strait of Hormuz could cause most of the world’s aggression to focus on Iran, this is not a strong deterrent for a regime wanting to cause global chaos as a catalyst for the twelfth imam’s return (Islamic apocalypse). Influencing a return is the goal of a small Muslim sect that believes human actions can cause the chaos necessary for the Islamic version of the end of times. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is reported to be a member of this small sect. Their ideology was considered so dangerous to the stability of the Islamic Republic that the Ayatollah Khomeini banned the group in the 1980s.
If what many in and outside of Iran believe about President Ahmadinejad’s intentions to hasten the return of the twelfth imam is true, then his reckless abandon in dealing with the West and Israel is logical.
Bringing the world into chaos would be sufficiently achieved through a global economic crisis. The best way for the Middle East to cause a global crisis would be to manipulate oil prices by limiting supply. Since the Strait of Hormuz moves a significant amount of the world’s oil supply, causing even a temporary disturbance in the transportation of that oil would be devastating to global economies.
Iran has their work cut out for them. It’s proving harder to get Obama to fight than it is to bring on the end of times. Iran’s best chance of drawing the U.S. into conflict would be through Israel. Since 2001, the U.S. has been working closely with Israel on a ballistic missile defense system. One of the largest war games for this program was conducted just this past October off the coast of Israel.
If Iran is successful in drawing the U.S. into conflict through a strike on Israel, they can use the occasion to mine the Strait of Hormuz — creating a U.S./Iran incident explicitly over oil. This would be politically devastating to a far left president who is largely supported by liberals claiming the Bush administration’s wars were for oil.
A global shortage of oil could quickly escalate into a world war (very convenient for Islamic apocalypse). WWIII being led by a man who just won the Nobel Peace Prize would also be a tad politically embarrassing.
On the other hand, delaying military action beyond the point of failed diplomacy shows weakness on the part of the U.S. This scenario works to the advantage of Iranian rhetoric and for jihadist propaganda about American being a “paper tiger.”
If Obama continues to delay action in the face of inevitable war, it buys time for Iran to mine the strait in anticipation of conflict. If this is allowed to happen, the U.S. is ill-equipped to clear the mines quickly. Our military has the capability for clearing mines, but being largely untested and under-resourced in the region, it could take more than a week to conduct mine sweeps and clear a path in the strait with any confidence. All the while, the world economy would spiral from a crippling blow to oil supply.
The decision ultimately lies with President Obama on when and how the U.S. will eventually engage Iran. Considering Obama’s political handicaps and unwillingness to enter into military conflict with Iran, the likelihood of delay will ensure for the U.S. a strategic disadvantage and lost opportunities in an inevitable war.