Could Iran shut the Strait of Hormuz, or significantly hinder traffic passing through it? A recent decision by the European Union to impose a total embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil has prompted threats from Tehran to close the world's most important oil chokepoint. However, an assessment of military capabilities deployed in the area, and of probable tactics, suggests that Iran would find it difficult or unpalatable to cause major disruption.

Could Iran shut the Strait of Hormuz, or significantly hinder traffic passing through it? A recent decision by the European Union to impose a total embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil has prompted threats from Tehran to close the world's most important oil chokepoint. However, an assessment of military capabilities deployed in the area, and of probable tactics, suggests that Iran would find it difficult or unpalatable to cause major disruption.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, 17 million barrels of oil passed through the strait every day in 2011, or about 35% of all seaborne traded oil. Iran itself is heavily dependent on oil flowing through the strait: approximately 70% of the government's revenues come from oil exports, all of which currently transit the strait. Iran has no pipelines to its Indian Ocean ports or to countries to its east.

In late 2011 and early 2012, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy conducted Velayat-90, a series of exercises that focused on sea denial. Although Iran possesses capabilities that could, at least temporarily, disrupt shipping, it seems unlikely that it would be able to close the strait for a prolonged period.

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