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The increasing tensions between Iran and the West, driving Iran’s rapid naval modernization based on Asymmetric strategy

President Hassan Rouhani ordered Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization to develop nuclear propulsion for warships. Rouhani has stated that the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action, an agreement between Iran and the West that ends Iran’s nuclear weapons research, does not block the construction of nuclear-powered warships.

The order is reportedly in response to the extension of Iran sanctions by the U.S. Congress by 10 years. Meant to punish Iran for developing nuclear weapons and its association with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, the act blocks the development of Iran’s oil industry, targeting both exports to Iran and financial transactions.

Islamic Republic of Iran is building up its naval forces to control the Strait of Hormuz owing to its importance as a strategic global chokepoint. Millions of barrels of oil are transported daily to Europe, the United States and Asia through the Bab el-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, waterways that run along the coasts of Yemen and Iran.

General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces said in remarks published on 27 November 2016 that Iran needed a fleet in the Indian Ocean that would be equal to the one stationed in the Gulf of Oman, and urged the Navy to enhance its intelligence activities by working on satellite and cyber-space technologies, as well as by developing naval drones. Iran should also develop its own naval infrastructure, as its coasts could provide space for several new ports, the major general said, stressing that the Islamic Republic should break Russia’s monopoly on providing Central Asian countries with access to international waters.

Taking lessons from Iran-Iraq conflict and subsequent regional wars such as Operation DESERT STORM, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM , IRGC has decided that its naval strategy would involve fighting an asymmetric war against potential enemies. According to the IRGC commander, an asymmetric war would involve “working on all the weaknesses of the enemy and the maximal usage of our capability.” By choosing an asymmetric approach, however, Iran was not abandoning modern military technology. The IRGC claims that Iran would use its growing arsenal of modern weapons, including cruise missiles, modern mines, and submarines, but in a different way and at a time and place the enemy would not know or expect.

The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in the region and protects shipping lanes in the Gulf and nearby waters. Since the conflict during the Iran-Iraq War, known as the Tanker War, the United States has deterred anti-ship mines, missile fires, swarm attacks, and general harassment from Iran. Since taking office last month, Trump has pledged to get tough with Iran, warning the Islamic Republic after its ballistic missile test on Jan. 29 that it was playing with fire and all U.S. options were on the table.

Iran’s growing Naval Capability

Iran has successfully tested the country’s indigenous Valfajr torpedo system during two week-long naval drills, during which the Islamic Republic also featured other advanced military technology including cruise and anti-ship missiles. The Iranian Navy’s Qadir-class submarines (which are equipped with sonar-evading technology and can fire missiles and torpedoes simultaneously) searched and traced hypothetical enemies’ targets using advanced radar systems and then destroyed them by firing Valfajr torpedoes,” Iran’s Fars news reported.

“What makes Valfajr torpedo stand apart from other similar products in the world is the short preparation time in the supporting and firing units; a characteristic which leads to a remarkable increase in tactical capability and a quick response from surface and subsurface combat units,” Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan was quoted as saying earlier.

Also, the Navy’s anti-submarine helicopters used tracking systems to detect subsurface targets in the drill zone and blew them up with their optimized torpedoes. The Iranian naval forces conducted a mine clearance operation during the massive ‘Velayat 95’ wargames in Feb 2017, using sonic and magnetic demining devices.

Mine sweeping and defusing by means of sonic and magnetic equipment and devices requires complicated technology that was just mastered and owned by the big powers, but the Iranian military joined the club in practice today.

The Iranian Navy fired the latest version of its home-made coast-to-sea cruise missile, ‘Nasir’, on the second day of the main phase of the massive wargames. Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan told FNA that the cruise missile has hit the specified target with maximum precision.

Iran is developing a submarine that could launch an anti-ship cruise missile designed to quickly sink an American warship operating in the Strait of Hormuz, according to a new assessment of Iranian naval capabilities published by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence. Citing Iranian press reports, the new ONI study – Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies – said development of Tehran’s new Besat-class of diesel-electric attack submarine will include an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) capability.

The tensions between Iran and the West, is leading to naval confrontations and threat to merchant shipping Strait of Hormuz will continue to serve as a chokepoint of economic importance for global oil markets and the West.

References and resources also include:

http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/cyber-threats-to-navy-and-merchant-shipping-in-the-persian-gulf/

https://www.rt.com/news/378974-iran-torpedo-naval-drills/

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iran/navy-doctrine.htm

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