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Daniel J. Graeber

Daniel J. Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer and political analyst based in Michigan. His work on matters related to the geopolitical aspects of the global energy sector,…

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Iran Positioned to Threaten Oil Lanes

Iran Positioned to Threaten Oil Lanes

In mid-December, the U.S. military will have only one aircraft carrier positioned in the Persian Gulf region for the first time in two years. At the same time, the Iranian navy said it was kicking off a 10-day exercise in the region. Oil prices spiked when Iran early this year threatened to close oil-shipping lanes in the region. If talks scheduled for December between Tehran and the IAEA turn sour, there exists for Iran the potential to exploit the security vacuum in the region and use its defensive position for geopolitical gain.

The U.S. Navy announced that, for about two months, there will be only one aircraft carrier based in the Middle East region because of unexpected repair work needed on USS Nimitz.  A Navy commander said it was the "right thing to do" to leave the military one carrier short in the region, a first since December 2010. At the same time, the Iranian navy announced plans to conduct a 10-day drill to display what Tehran said was a way for the Islamic republic to "display its might and deterrence power."

In January, oil prices were moving fast beyond the $100 per barrel mark in part because of tensions with Iran, which had threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz in response to increased sanctions pressure. The U.S. Energy Department describes the strait as the "world's most important oil checkpoint." Last year, about 17 million barrels oil per day traveled through the area, which represented about 35 percent of the world's maritime oil shipments. Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pipelines in place to compensate for any closure, though each of those has their limitations.

Related Article: Iran's Untouchable Energy Exports

Traders in January said tensions in the region would certainly lead to an increase in oil prices. While much of Iran's oil heads to Asian economies, the oil market is global, meaning U.S. economic power is linked critically to U.S. defensive power in the Middle East. U.S. Energy Department analysts said any economic uncertainty in the oil markets would have a ripple effect on the global economy.

Iran and delegates from the International Atomic Energy Agency are set to resume negotiations Dec. 13. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has said there's "lots" of activity at the Parchin military complex near Tehran. Western diplomats have said they suspect Iran has taken steps to shield what could be illicit nuclear activity at the site. Tehran has said it was opposed to weapons of mass destruction, though Western diplomats have already said they expect few breakthroughs during next month's talks.

Iran could take advantage of the U.S. Navy's brief drawdown in the region to rattle its sabers in the gulf should the IAEA issue a damning nuclear assessment following December talks. With Iran's economy in decline, however, any decision to shut down the Strait of Hormuz could work against, not for, Tehran's favor. Nevertheless, the mere threat of a closure in January was in part responsible for a one-day 4.25 price increase for oil. Iran's naval drills are scheduled to get under way about a week after the IAEA talks.  Without a major U.S. defensive bulwark, the Iranians may have the deck stacked in their favor.

By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com

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  • Rachael Dean on November 25 2012 said:
    Iran, or rather Tehran, has said they are against weapons of mass destruction. Foreign officials from the US tell us that is not the case. We must remember the US also said and used this same excuse (WoMD) in bringing down Saddam Hussein in Iraq, where NO WoMD were ever found. However it didn't stop the invasion of Iraq and the ensuing consequence of US owned oil pipelines there. This should be of grave concern to the Middle eastern countries who have yet to be invaded by Imperialist western countries.
  • John Gould on November 26 2012 said:
    Remember, Saddam killed over 100,000 + Kurds with his Chemical weapons. The Russians helped to move all these WMD's out of country before we got there.
  • Reply to John Gould on November 26 2012 said:
    Let me guess John the ruskies moved the wmd's to IRAN?, you see you state terrorists have amnesia let me educate you wasn't it the the US that provided Saddam with the chemical weapons, guess who he used them against? Yep IRAN the second most affected nation by chemical and biological weapons after japan more than 200,000 iranian either died or were affected. I don't see the US talking about how they tried to commit a holocaust against the iranians like they did against the Japanese only warmongering as usual.
  • olamazadeh on November 26 2012 said:
    Iran never attacked any countries in recent modern era in comparison with the United States which has attacked several times other countries or helped others to invade or make trouble (Some kind of State Terrorism!).
    Iran's Nuclear Technology is peaceful and showed no deviation (IAEA reports) in comparison of the United States the only state in the World which has used the nuclear weapons. Non proliferation means no new atomic weapon development or renewal but US and UK are still renewing their old nulcear weapons.
  • Earl Richards on November 26 2012 said:
    Iran will not close the Straits of Hormuz, because the closing would block Iran's export trade, including oil shipments to China, India, Korea and Japan. Iran is not going to strangle itself. Iran's oil exports do not have any effect on the oil markets of North America and western Europe, because Iran's oil is traded on the Iran Oil Bourse and on the Singapore spot market. Very little of Iran's oil is exported to the West. The closing of the Straits is being used as a phony excuse by Big Oil, Wall Street and their media pundits to increase the oil price.
  • razmataz on November 26 2012 said:
    The basic tenant of naval war is to manuver to advantage and to sink your opponent's ships. You cannot manuver in the Persian Gulf (too narrow, too shallow, too short) and you cannot sink Iran. The signal the US is getting ready to attack Iran will be when the US pulls most or all of its ships out of the Gulf, not when those ships are at a maximum. Unless, of course, the whole idea is to lose a ship or two, thus justifying a much larger war. Or if Israel starts the war, in which case they will want to maximize the probability a major US naval asset is sunk, thus forcing a much larger war.
  • Barrington on November 26 2012 said:
    To Rachel Dean and all others with your heads buried in the sand. Iraq DID have WMD's and they were discovered for several years after the 2003 invasion. Mustard Blister Agent was found frequently and in some instances, found in stockpliles that Iraq had claimed for years had been destroyed.

    Nearly three years later, American troops were still finding WMD in the region. An armored Buffalo vehicle unearthed a cache of artillery shells “that was covered by sacks and leaves under an Iraqi Community Watch checkpoint. “The 155mm rounds are filled with an unknown liquid, and several of which are leaking a black tar-like substance.” Initial tests were inconclusive. But later, “the rounds tested positive for mustard.”

    Get your facts straight and stop believing all the political rhetoric coming from both sides. Learn to think for yourself instead of basing your opinions on pre-scripted talking points dished out by the Republicrats and Democans.
  • Bill Jones on November 26 2012 said:
    The threat to the shipment of oil comes, of course from the U.S.'s Israeli fueled aggression.

    The barking mad Zionist warmongers are the greatest threat to humanity on the planet.
  • Magnus on November 27 2012 said:
    Iran is a frothing at the mouth religiously insane theocracy with nuclear ambitions. It is perfectly ok for the corrupt and immoral muslim to lie through his teeth to any 'infidel' while plotting their demise. Hardened sites for 'peaceful' research when the material has been offered to you countless times has but one explanation, deceit. America had every right to use nuclear weapons on Japan, they attacked our naval base and killed many sailors. Whether Roosevelt knew about it is immaterial, they still had the unmitigated gall to do it. Their atrocities in the war and the untold misery their psychotic actions caused earned them exactly what they received. Unless anyone here thinks the World would be better off under Iranian, Chinese and Russian leadership, America has done a spectacular job of keeping World Peace. Accusing the US government of crimes that every government is guilty of is laughable at best. Iran is a nightmare to live in, try expressing yourself there. America, the Greatest Country in Human History.

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