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How the U.S. can keep the Strait of Hormuz open

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WASHINGTON - The summers are long and hot in the Persian Gulf. I deployed to those waters half a dozen times during a long navy career, and have sat on the bridge of U.S. warships watching Iranian gunboats warily too many times to count.

Sometimes the Iranians are very professional, and follow the standard rules of the nautical road. At other times, they can be the worst and most dangerous of mariners, swerving close at high speed, hurling insults in broken English over the bridge-to-bridge radio, turning on their fire control radars. And the behavior always seemed to turn worse as the roasting summer days — with sea-surface temperatures over 43 degrees Celsius — dragged on. Now, given the geopolitical climate, it’s not surprising to be faced with a very ugly summer in the Persian Gulf.

On one deployment as a destroyer captain, I directed fire of a 50-caliber-weapon in front of a cluster of Iranian gunboats, causing them, eventually, to turn away. On another, my cruiser provided air-control information to planes that fired air-to-air missiles at approaching Iranian fighters.

The Iranians are generally bellicose and somewhat unpredictable, and we should not underestimate their ability to conduct serious combat operations — both overtly and covertly. Above all, to them this is the “Persian Gulf,” a bow to the ancient empire on which modern-day Iran is built.

All of which brings us to the crisis of the moment: strikes on merchant ships in May and two much more serious attacks last week. The U.S. government says they were almost certainly conducted by the Iranians, and it is hard to........

© The Japan Times