So now we know the kind of sanctions that hit Iran’s regime where it really hurts. The U.S. and Europe are at last mustering the gumption to target Iran’s multibillion-dollar oil industry, and almost immediately Tehran is threatening to bring Persian Gulf tankers to a halt. If it struck first, Iran could sink a few ships and do some damage. But Iran is no military match for the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf.
The Hormuz threat is another opportunity to set boundaries on Iran’s rogue behavior. Washington, along with London, Paris and Riyadh, should say plainly that any attempt to close or disrupt traffic through the strait would be considered an act of war that would be met with a military response. That response would be robust and immediate, and it would target Iran’s military and nuclear assets, perhaps even its regime. Iran’s mullahs need to understand that an act of aggression would jeopardize their own survival.
The Hormuz flap should also underscore the strategic damage that would result if Iran does get the bomb. Fortified by a nuclear threat, the mullahs would be more willing to blackmail their neighbors and press for regional dominance. Would the U.S. dare resist Iranian aggression if it meant putting American forces at risk of a nuclear reprisal? Better to act now to stop Iran before we have to answer that terrible question.