But the energy sanctions carry the risk of confrontation, as well as economic disruption, given the unpredictability of the Iranian response.
There is an unpredictable element in how the Iranians will response. However, I don’t think the response of the US is unpredictable. The response will be, it is probably more accurate to say has been, the Carter Doctrine, especially as expressed in the last key sentence:
“Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
The “outside force” is of course China and the way we “control” this outside force is by bringing it into our economy and enabling it instead of denying it resources. This enabling fuses the two economies together into a type of, hold-your-friends-close-but-your-enemies-closer situation.
All war is about economic considerations, and as long as China’s and the USA’s economic considerations are kept intact instead of broken-up by one or the other, war is avoided between the number one and number two economies of the world.
All the US needs is a front to push its economy against, and, unless the Kurds decide to invite an “outside” force into Iraq, the Strait of Hormuz sounds like that front.
While the unpredictability of Iran’s response to sanctions should not be overlooked, Iran’s biggest mistake would be to give the US, and indirectly China, an opportunity to Act! Especially if Iran’s actions were to open up two fronts (one in Iraq and one in approximation of Saudi Arabia) instead of one.
Of course once the situation goes critical, with the clearing of the Strait of Hormuz, Pakistan and Afghanistan also become players, if not as a front against Iran, then as a means of a land route to the Indian Ocean for oil.