We here lots of talk about asymmetric warfare these days, but it’s worth remembering that despite lacking a navy worth the name, Iraq effectively used cheap, plentiful sea mines–nearly 1200 of them–to neutralize the threat of a U.S. amphibious landing in Kuwait or southern Iraq during Desert Storm. From the 1992 Pentagon “Conduct of the Persian Gulf War” report:
The bulk of Iraq’s mine inventory consisted of Iraqi reproductions of pre-World War I designed Russian contact mines. However, it also included high-technology magnetic and acoustic influence mines purchased from the Soviet Union and Italy. Specifically, Iraq had 11 types of mines including moored contact mines (e.g., the Myam, the Soviet M-08, and a similar Iraqi-produced LUGM-145) and bottom acoustic influence mines (e.g., the Italian Manta acoustic magnetic mine, the Soviet KMD magnetic influence mine, the Soviet UDM acoustic influence mine, and the Iraqi-produced Sigeel acoustic influence mine). Before Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Iraq was estimated to have 1,000 to 2,000 mines. After the cease fire, Iraq reported it had laid 1,167 mines during the conflict.
It took Coalition naval forces over five months to clear all of the mines–and that was after the war with nobody shooting at the minesweepers. Iran is estimated to have at least 3000-5000 such mines…and a lot of platforms capable log laying them in the narrow Straits of Hormuz. How high do you think the price of a barrel of crude would jump to if the Gulf were closed to shipping for six months to a year?