One of the first things we teach all Level 1 students is that situational awareness begins with understanding the global reality they inhabit. This “big picture” look can give us vital clues in determining where, when, or how a “crisis” in our lives may unfold as the fallout from events half a world away cascade into our places of work, play, and home – such as the energy crisis starting in 1973 and lasting most of that decade. This crisis was precipitated by rising tensions in the Middle East, culminating in events such as the Yom Kippur War and Iranian Revolution, that had among other effects an impact on oil and petroleum production that resulted in skyrocketing prices, fistfights at gas pumps, and an economic downturn. As not everyone has transitioned to a self-driving, battery-driven automobile, and many of us still love our Canyoneros, another such incident could portend the fall of society (okay, maybe that’s a little severe; but imagine limited response capability from emergency services due to fuel shortages and you get the picture).
Iran is in the news again; this time, for having attacked two Japanese oil tankers transiting the Gulf of Oman. At the time, the Japanese Prime Minister was in Iran, attempting to broker negotiations between the United States and the Islamic Republic, between whom tensions have been steadily rising since the early 2000s. The precise reasons why Iran chose to attack two Japanese vessels during a visit by the Japanese Prime Minister are unclear, but a sensible guess is that Iran, like Russia and China, is attempting to pry traditional allies of the United States away from toeing the line when it comes to enforcing U.S. foreign policy demands through a combination of diplomatic pressure, subterfuge, and low intensity or asymmetrical military activity.
In response to the attacks, the United States has placed the Fifth Fleet (traditionally responsible for patrolling areas of the Iranian coastline) on alert within the Gulf of Oman, and issued a statement blaming Iran for the attacks and calling on the world community to hold fast to sanctions emplaced against the Iranian government. Previously, President Trump has indicated his desire to withdraw the U.S. from what he feels are too many unilateral foreign interventions (an example of which can be seen in his earlier decision to withdraw the majority of troops from Syria following a largely successful campaign there against the Islamic State), stating his preference that the United States’ traditional allies begin to build their own defense capabilities and assist in global peacekeeping.
The actions taken by Iran – and the response by the United States – are conducted within several “meta-narratives,” one of which is the long-standing animosity between the government of Saudi Arabia (a Sunni Islam nation) and that of Iran (a Shiite Islam nation). These two nations alone, let alone together, can take actions that have a tremendous impact on energy reserves supplied not only to nations such as Japan, but Western Europe and the United States. The availability of energy reserves is closely tied to a nation’s military and financial stability. Should these reserves be threatened, it’s likely that force will be escalated until the reserve source is stabilized, and that affected economies will suffer.
So, what does this mean to you? With an economic downturn comes greater levels of crime, and social unrest from the pressures not only of this heightened crime but the political forces pushing for or against escalation of force. Combined with potential austerity measures resulting from an energy crisis, it could make for a nasty situation here at home. The global realities from what happens in the Strait of Hormuz, thousands of miles away, can very readily impact the near realities of everyday life. Placed in perspective, it’s easy to see why events like the attack on two Japanese oil tankers in the Middle East should spur us to maintain or improve our level of security, to ensure the safety of the assets we value.