As I have blogged before (see “2.c. The Persian Gulf” in this article), Iran’s best chance to substantially shut down the Strait of Hormuz is to lay mines, then target US minesweeping vessels. They are far less well defended than its capital ships, and more fragile than the double-hulled, compartmentalized behemoths that constitute modern oil tankers. Moreover, Iran has incentives to start on that as soon as it deems that probability of war with the US is sufficiently high. Otherwise, it would be too late and will start the conflict without the one ace its otherwise outmatched military has up its sleeve.
However, the very act of laying mines is a genuinely hostile act, and this will precipitate war. This is the very definition of a vicious spiral.
Consequently, there are very dangerous runaway dynamics in any serious attempt to use brinkmanship with Iran to extract concessions (or “bring it to the negotiating table” as they call it). It may well be that we are now approaching that point.
In fairness, this may very well be what the Trump administration is banking on. The likes of Bolton and Pompeo take the heat for their current warmongering and false flagging. Meanwhile, Trump gets to walk away with his reputation as an “antiwar” President intact, forced into conflict to defend global freedom of navigation against the evil Iranians. While a war against Iran that comes out of the blue is not going to be accepted by an electorate jaded by the Iraq War, I can certainly see patriotic boomers and many others lapping it up in this scenario. Moreover, the looming recession can be blamed on Iran disrupting the global oil supply.
Incumbency, patriotic fever, a recession “created by” Iran – Trump’s chances of a second term become rather good.