Tension between U.S. and Iran escalates as Iran threatens to close off essential oil seaway

Emily Brown, Opinion Editor

The Nuclear Club
In early December, Iran confiscated an American drone that had been launched from Afghanistan.
As reported by the New York Times, the drone was being used by the CIA to monitor nuclear power plants in Iran.
While Iranian officials have stated numerous times that the country is merely attempting to generate electricity through nuclear power — not building any nuclear weapon — several countries, including the U.S., are nervous about Iran’s progress in nuclear capability. Especially after the recent news that the nation’s capital is producing more uranium than is what is needed by civilian use.
Saudi Arabia stated that they too will pursue nuclear capability, if Iran does test a nuclear weapon.
If this were to happen, there is a possibility of a Middle Eastern arms race that would have disastrous results in an already volatile region.
To stifle Iran’s nuclear capability, the European Union has proposed Iranian oil sanctions, and according to Businessweek.com, EU foreign ministers are likely to agree to block Iranian oil imports at the meeting in Brussels on Jan. 30.

Tension rising in the Strait of Hormuz 
With Europe moving forward with Iranian oil sanctions, Iran threatened to close off the Strait of Hormuz, a small bend of water between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf that is essential for the transportation of oil from the Middle East to other parts of the world.
Iran also sent the U.S. a simple message, warning them to stay out of the area and not to get involved.
“We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf,” said Gen. Ataollah Salehi, the Iranian commander in chief of the army, as reported by Iran’s official news agency, IRNA. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning.”
One-fifth of all crude oil comes out of this area, and according to Société Générale S.A., a major European bank, if Iran were to close the strait, oil prices would rise from $150 to $200 a barrel.

Not so idle threats?
According to CNN, Iran has backed up their threats by beginning naval exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. They tested missiles that, if successful, would prevent any movement in the Strait of Hormuz.
With these missiles, Iran has proven they have the technological capability to ensure complete control over the Strait of Hormuz.
But do they have the political or economic power to do so?
Sadly for them, not really. Their currency is crumbling, and any more sanctions would ruin whatever economy Iran has, especially now that new U.S. legislation included provisions to impose trade sanctions on Iran’s central bank. And with Iran’s unemployment rate more than 20 percent, social unrest is likely in a country surrounded by effects of the Arab Spring.
Threatening the U.S., a country with significant economic power, only hurts them more in the long run. Let’s see where their nuclear capabilities go if they can’t afford the technology required.

Throwin’ around the insults

While Iran teeters on the edge of economic ruin, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to discuss politics — and to joke about atomic weapons. According to MSNBC, Chavez joked that a bomb was ready under a grassy knoll in front of his palace steps.
Clearly, Iran doesn’t mind befriending our enemies, and while Ahmadinejad might have not said the words himself, it was just as insulting.
Perhaps, President Barack Obama should joke around with the Prime Minster of England about the crumbling of the currency in Iran. Or about how amusing it would be if Israel started bombing the nuclear power plants that, clearly, Iran is ready to go to war over.

Iranian nuclear scientist killed
On Jan. 11, an Iranian nuclear scientist was killed by a car bomb. A senior Iranian lawmaker, Kazem Jalali, placed the blame for the act of terrorism on the United States and Israel.
Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, has denied such claims, while a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces wrote on his Facebook page that he has no knowledge of who targeted the Iranian scientist — but he wouldn’t shed any tears over it.
Irony found in the unlikeliest of places

In early January, shortly after Iran’s veiled threats, U.S. sailors rescued 13 of Iran’s sailors from a pirate attack in the North Arabian sea, near the Strait of Hormuz. Maybe Iran should worry more about the pirates targeting their ships than the American sailors saving their butts.

Current as of press date.