Iran: Dilemmas of Dual Containment

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Ahmed S. Hashim | Go to book overview
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The Threat from
Iran's Naval Forces

Most Gulf nations have treated sea power as an afterthought, but the Iranian Navy and Naval Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are likely to play a critical role in Iranian military action in the Gulf. Any Iranian intervention in a Gulf state that does not involve the cooperation of a southern Gulf government and free access to ports and air fields, would require some kind of amphibious operation. Naval forces are equally essential to a wide spectrum of other possible conflicts that affect the islands in the Gulf, control of the Straits of Hormuz, unconventional warfare using naval forces, attacks on coastal targets in Iraq and the southern Gulf, and Western and southern Gulf naval operations in the Gulf. 408

As a result, it is not surprising that Iran has given the modernization of its naval forces a high priority since the end of the Iran-Iraq War. Iran has obtained missiles from the Chinese, some additional ships, midget submarines from North Korea, and submarines from Russia. Iran has also received significant logistic and technical support from Pakistan. 409 It has improved its naval training, acquired additional mine warfare capability, and repaired some of its ships. It has stepped up training and exercise activity, most notably in the Lightning 3, Val Fajr 1 and 2, Fatah 3, and Naser series of exercises. Iran has also bought new missiles and ships, purchased submarines from Russia, and improved its ports and strengthened their air defenses. Furthermore, it has conducted combined arms training exercises with the land forces and air force. 410

These efforts have done more to improve Iran's capabilities to threaten Gulf shipping and offshore oil facilities, and its capability to support unconventional warfare, than they have to allow it to act as an effective navy. Iranian naval forces still have many limitations, but the military capability of Iranian naval forces should not be measured in terms of the ability to win a battle for sea control against southern Gulf and/or Western forces. Iran's forces are likely to lose any such battle if Western forces


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