Inside Story

Is Iran’s show of force a real threat?

As it conducts missile tests, we ask if Iran will give up its nuclear programme in exchange for removal of sanctions.

This week saw a three-day Iranian military exercise in the Gulf, in which the country’s long and short range missile technology was on display.

The show of force came at the same time as a new European Union (EU) ban on the import of Iranian crude came into effect.

“Iran can threaten to mine the Strait [of Hormuz]. It can actually mine the strait, it can fire missiles from its coastal batteries into tanker ships traversing the Strait, it can attack any naval flotilla accompanying merchant vessels. So it can, to all extents and purposes, close the strait.

– Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute

Sanctions are being intensified as the EU together with the US continue to press demands that Iran give total international access to its nuclear technology programme – demands that Tehran sees as a direct attack on the country’s national sovereignty.

And Iran’s parliament is currently drafting a bill that would allow a partial or complete closure of the Strait of Hormuz – a vital shipping route for the export of oil to the world.

This week, the website of Iran’s state TV channel, ran an online poll that offered a rare insight into Iranian public opinion.

It was subsequently removed after claims the source data was flawed but still raises some interesting points

According to the results of this poll, 63 per cent of respondents said they would prefer that their government ended its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for the gradual removal of sanctions.

The result could reflect public dissatisfaction with Iran’s faltering economy which has been hit by wave after wave of punitive measures that experts say have cost the economy $10bn in oil revenues.

The poll also runs counter to the claim often made by Tehran, that the majority of Iranians are behind the country’s nuclear enrichment programme.

So will Tehran give in to the demands because of increasing pressure?

Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, discusses with guests: Mamdouh Salameh, an international oil economist and an energy consultant for the World Bank; Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at the University of Tehran; and Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and specialises in the US-Iran relations and has written a book: Understanding the US-Iran crisis: A Primer.

“All Gulf oil exporters will be affected one way or another. In the case of the United Arab Emirates it has this alternative pipeline which ends on the Arabian sea at the port of Fujairah. And they can export through it- starting from June this year- three quarters of their exports. In the case of Saudi they can export one third of their exports through a pipeline which ends up at the Red Sea at Yanbu.”

Mamdouh Salameh, an International oil economist and an energy consultant for the World Bank



  • Iran says it can launch missiles at US bases throughout the Gulf
  • Iranian commander says missiles can reach 35 US bases in the Gulf
  • Iran has been holding a number of military drills in the Strait of Hormuz
  • Iran’s state news agency says dozens of missiles were tested
  • Drill included missiles capable of hitting US targets in the Gulf
  • The US has stepped up its military presence in the gulf
  • The US navy’s 5th fleet is in Bahrain – about 200 km from Iran’s coast
  • The US and EU embargo on Iranian oil imports came into effect on July 01
  • Iran threatens to shut the Strait of Hormuz in response to sanctions
  • Western powers say they will not tolerate obstruction in the strait
  • Around 20 per cent of world’s crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz
  • Experts say Iran’s oil exports are down by 40 per cent compared to last year