According to Reuters, Tehran has previously threatened to block the waterway between Iran and Oman, which is 33 km wide at its narrowest point and the conduit for nearly 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea, as a way of hitting back at the West.
Yet, Iran seems to have found limited room for maneuver since the killing of Soleimani in a U.S. drone attack at Baghdad airport in Iraq, earlier in January.
Analysts now say that the Islamic Republic’s immediate priority is de-escalation.
Michael Stephens, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and a former analyst seconded to the British Foreign Office in the Middle East highlighted that
They don’t want to upset Qatar, one of the few allies they have in the Gulf, and there’s a new sultan in Oman who they need to keep onside. They need to keep those allies.
Furthermore, according to Jonathan Eyal, RUSI’s international director, China which is increasing its influence in the region and buys 50%-70% of Iranian oil exports, would be opposed to any interruption of energy flows through the strait.
While Iran is expected to retaliate further for Soleimani’s killing in time- either directly or through various Middle East proxies- the United States has thrown Tehran on the defensive with the scale and boldness of its strike on Soleimani.
Stephens adds that “the costs are now extremely high for Iran.”
Any big, flashy response (by Iran) is much less likely, given those considerations.
Instead, analysts expect tensions in the region to move back into a more regular “holding pattern,” short of the Iranians making another strategic miscalculation.
Adding to this, the threat of longer-term Iranian retaliation remains, with alternate movements in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere poised to strike if Tehran doesn’t act directly itself.
Recently, the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) officially published an advisory in order to warn the US ships located across the Middle East waterways of the possible Iranian maritime threats.
As the department further advised, the US commercial vessels must pay attention and coordinate the vessel voyage planning for transits of the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea with NCAGS (US Fifth Fleet Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping), while meet NCAGS's recommendations and guidance whenever needed.
In the meantime, the US Fifth Fleet which is based in Bahrain, polices the Strait of Hormuz and other major waterways in the region.
In respond to the situation, Iran has claimed that will shut down the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean, the Strait of Hormuz as a part of its revenge.