And just in case a brutal reminder that nothing is solved in Europe is not enough, here comes Iran:
- IRAN MP SAYS MILITARY TO PRACTISE CLOSING STRAIT OF HORMUZ TO SHIPPING; IRANIAN MILITARY DECLINES TO COMMENT - RTRS
And some more from Reuters:
Iran army declines comment on Hormuz exercise
A member of the Iranian parliament's National Security Committee said on Monday that the military was set to practise its ability to close the Gulf to shipping at the narrow Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil transit channel in the world, but there was no official confirmation.
The legislator, Parviz Sarvari, told the student news agency ISNA: "Soon we will hold a military manoeuvre on how to close the Strait of Hormuz. If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure."
Contacted by Reuters, a spokesman for the Iranian military declined to comment.
Iran's energy minister told Al Jazeera television last month that Tehran could use oil as a political tool in the event of any future conflict over its nuclear programme.
Tension over the programme has increased since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on Nov. 8 that Tehran appears to have worked on designing a nuclear bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end. Iran strongly denies this and says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Iran has warned it will respond to any attack by hitting Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf and analysts say one way to retaliate would be to close the Strait of Hormuz.
About a third of all sea-borne shipped oil passed through the Strait in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and U.S. warships patrol the area to ensure safe passage.
As a reminder from Wikipedia:
The strait at its narrowest is 54 kilometres (34 mi) wide. It is the only sea passage to the open ocean for large areas of the petroleum-exporting Persian Gulf. About 13 tankers carrying 15.5 million barrels (2,460,000 m3) of crude oil pass through the strait on an average day, making it one of the world's most strategically important choke points. This represents 33% of the world's seaborne oil shipments, and 17% of all world oil shipments in 2009.
A series of naval stand-offs between Iranian speedboats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz occurred in December 2007 and January 2008. U.S. officials accused Iran of harassing and provoking their naval vessels; Iranian officials denied these allegations. On January 14, 2008, U.S. naval officials appeared to contradict the Pentagon version of the Jan. 16 event, in which U.S. officials said U.S. vessels were near to firing on approaching Iranian boats. The Navy's regional commander, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, said the Iranians had "neither anti-ship missiles nor torpedoes" and that he "wouldn't characterize the posture of the US 5th Fleet as afraid of these small boats".
On June 29, 2008, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Ali Mohammed Jafari, said that if Iran were attacked by Israel or the United States, it would seal off the Strait of Hormuz, to wreak havoc in oil markets. This statement followed other more ambiguous threats from Iran's oil minister and other government officials that a Western attack on Iran would result in turmoil in oil supply.
In response, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet stationed in Bahrain across the Persian Gulf from Iran, warned that such an action by Iran would be considered an act of war, and that the U.S. would not allow Iran to effectively hold hostage nearly a third of the world's oil supply.
In July 8, 2008, Ali Shirazi, a mid-level clerical aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted by the student news agency ISNA as saying to Revolutionary Guards, "The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned."
An article in International Security contended that Iran could seal off or impede traffic in the Strait for a month, and an attempt by the U.S. to reopen it would likely escalate the conflict. In a later issue, however, the journal published a response which questioned some key assumptions and suggested a much shorter timeline for re-opening.
More as we see it.