Iran’s Backfiring Deterrent

Good point by Matt Eckel at The Global Buzz regarding Iran’s ability to cut off the flow of oil in the Straits of Hormuz as a deterrent against an American attack, most recently cited by Robert Kaplan in his Atlantic piece on Iran’s asymmetric naval strategy:

The problem with Kaplan’s logic, however, is that it assumes Iran is only a crude oil exporter; that by attacking maritime shipping in the Strait of Hormuz it will only reap the bounty of higher oil prices.

Except Iran isn’t only an crude oil exporter. It is a major importer of gasoline and other petroleum products. Due to economic sanctions and Iran’s policy of subsidizing the price of petrol on the domestic market, there has been serious underinvestment in refining capacity.

As Eckel says, it’s not so easy to tell who’s got who by the spaldeens. The failure to consider Iran’s dependence on imported refined gasoline, as opposed to exported crude, also happens to contribute to the widespread skepticism over why Iran, a nation literally floating atop a sea of oil reserves, would be pursuing nuclear energy.

Fortunately, a congressional “statement of policy” resolution that would have called for what amounts to a naval blockade on Iran, including banning exports of “refined petroleum products,” was shelved just a couple of weeks ago, after House leaders worried that it might give the president a loophole to use it as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.

Question for readers with expertise on the subject: Is a naval blockade legally considered an act of war, and can the president order one without Congressional approval?

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