Like clockwork, every four months or so, one Iranian official or another will threaten to close the Strait of Hormuz. The Pentagon assumes that Iran would seek to carry out its threats with mines, and so has deployed extra mine-sweepers to the region. Certainly, the Iranian navy would not be a match for the U.S. Navy. Anti-ship missiles are another concern, but it is a safe bet that not only the Defense Intelligence Agency, but also the militaries and intelligence agencies of most regional states, keep an eye on Iranian mobile missile launchers.
The latest news from Iran—if true—should raise new concerns and could undercut U.S. strategy for keeping the waterway open.
While Tehran is prone to fantastic—and false—claims regarding its unmanned aerial vehicles, it is also true that it has made progress. Late last month, the Persian-language press reported successful tests of “suicide drones.” Such reports might be exaggerated, but it doesn’t take the most advanced technology to ram drones—perhaps packed with explosives—into ships (or helicopters, or other targets). If the U.S. Navy is assuming that Iranian mines pose the biggest problem for international shipping, the Iranians may have a surprise in store. It’s not 1988 anymore.