One can imagine many ways that oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz might be threatened by violence. No particular scenario is very likely, and even the overall risk of conflict, imagining every possible scenario, might not be very high. No made-up "chronology" of events that would lead to a Persian Gulf crisis should be expected to accurately predict future events. Nevertheless, it helps to think about a few notional examples of possible conflict scenarios " both to make the risks to the global economy seem concrete and to help organize systematic analysis of the threat.

A major effort to interrupt oil flows such as an organized attack by Iran is the most likely way, if not the only way, to imagine a sustained major disruption. But the circumstances under which Iran might attack oil tankers would have a large effect on the likely result of such attacks. If Iran strikes first in a conflict, it would presumably have the opportunity to draw on its full panoply of military assets. If Iran instead reacts to an initial U.S. or Israeli strike, for example on its nuclear sites " something that Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened in an effort to deter the American or Israeli attack " Iran's options would be limited by damage to its infrastructure and military assets. In either type of scenario, a methodical Iranian attack would look different from a rushed operation.

Iran can presumably activate a variety of military plans designed to address changes or shifts in international politics. Iranian leaders have not been shy about publicizing their military exercises in which they practice operations to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf.

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This page last modified in August 2008