With U.S.-Iran tensions high after Iran’s retaliatory attack yesterday, experts are wondering whether Tehran will try to obstruct the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel through which all shipping traffic from energy-rich Gulf countries passes.

Rockford Weitz, a maritime studies scholar at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, explains the strait’s importance and offers reasons not to bet on an escalation that significantly interferes with the region’s oil trade. “In the past both the U.S. and Iran have pivoted back to diplomatic solutions when tensions have become too high,” he writes. In his view, this history suggests “that neither side wants to see the conflict escalate from hybrid warfare into a full-blown war.”

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Iranian soldiers take part in National Persian Gulf Day in the Strait of Hormuz. Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Could Iran-US tensions mean troubled waters ahead in the Strait of Hormuz?

Rockford Weitz, Tufts University

Any disruption to shipping in the narrow seaway could impact oil prices and ratchet up geopolitical tensions.

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