Iran may have already secured its greatest leverage, achieving a strategic and economic chokehold on Saudi Arabia and Israel at the same time. It may never need a nuclear bomb to threaten its regional enemies and force their acceptance of its growing influence and regional strategies.

Thanks to events over the past weeks, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran and supplied and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, have seized the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a mere 30 kilometers from Djibouti. For the first time Saudi Arabia’s archrival now has the ability to control the Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Iran now is as close as it has ever been to controlling the strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Through it, three million barrels of oil pass daily.

Straits in the Middle East are more than geographical features. They are nothing less than lifelines for the region’s countries. The blocking of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt triggered the 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Iran has in the past threatened to block the Straits of Hormuz if it was attacked by the West. The access to the Red Sea by Iran’s allies makes the threat of an effective use of sanctions against Iran smaller. Iran is poised to push back the West in the nuclear negotiations.