Gulf to Remain Prime Theater for Iranian Deterrence

By Dr. Heinrich Matthee, Academic Head, Black Hall College London

Iran has two naval forces to pursue its interests in the Gulf, namely the regular navy and the Pasdaran navy. The main bases of the regular navy include Bandar e-Abbas, Bushehr and Kharg Island. The regular navy operates traditional warships and auxiliary ships.

However, the regular navy is smaller than the Pasdaran navy. During the past few years it has often lost to the Pasdaran navy in the competition for bureaucratic resources. The Pasdaran has a 20,000 man naval branch with facilities at Bandar-e-Abbas, Khorramshar and the Halul oil platform. It also has facilities on the islands of Larak, Abu Musa, Al Farsiyah and Sirrir and uses the main naval bases. In addition, the Pasdaran controls access to smaller jetties, which are also used to evade sanctions and smuggle commodities without paying the required customs.

In 2007, the Pasdaran navy was given full operational control of the Gulf, while the regular navy was assigned to the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea. The Pasdaran navy has focused on obtaining small, fast boats. Some of these boats are armed with recoilless rifles and rocket launchers, others with man portable surface-to-air missiles and anti-armor guided weapons.

Iran can target any point within the Strait of Hormuz and much of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman with C-802 anti-ship missiles bought from China.

In past years, both the navy and the regular navy have increased their mine-laying capability. The Strait of Hormuz could be mined in a relatively short amount of time. Lacking modern mine-laying vessels, the naval forces could deploy mines using commercial vessels and small boats.

Excerpted from Gulf to Remain Prime Theater for Iranian Deterrence

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