Iran’s naval military plans
Iran’s wide-ranging military operations in Iraq and Syria confirm that engaging in wars has become Iran’s new policy
After participating in several wars directly, in Iraq and Syria, and indirectly in Yemen and Lebanon, it seems the Iranian administration has discovered the magic of military influence and its significance in imposing its foreign policy on the regional and international levels. This is what recent Iranian officials’ statements indicate. The most recent of these statements was made by Chief of Staff Mohammed Bagheri.
“We gave up on our nuclear power and we’re now compensating that with building a naval power that will grant us more value. We will create a military fleet in the sea of Oman and another fleet in the Indian Ocean. We will build naval bases on the coasts or in islands in Yemen and Syria and develop our military intelligence capability through drones in our naval extensions,” he said.
Although I rule out that Iran has the military capability for such a costly expansion, it’s clear that Iran has taken two strategic decisions: to increase its foreign military capabilities and to revive the Shah’s old dream of becoming the Gulf’s police force. The current state of Iran wants to become the region’s police officer, from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. This orientation will lead to more tensions in our region which is already disturbed and will make different parties resort to military power as a political tool.
The Iranian official’s statement does not really harmonize with his justifications that the aim of the naval military project is to confront pirates in the sea as Iran’s naval trade is limited when compared with other countries such as India, the Gulf states, Egypt and others which use naval passages outside Gulf waters. There are also no pirates in the sea of Oman or in the Mediterranean Sea. However, regardless of whether his statements aim to intimidate or whether they reflect the new Iranian strategy to replace the nuclear program after they submitted to Western pressures and backed down in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, the new Iranian mentality after signing the nuclear deal is all about military superiority and not economic openness like the American administration thought. This is what the US marketed while listing the benefits of the nuclear deal.
Iran’s wide-ranging military operations in Iraq and Syria confirm that engaging in wars has become Iran’s new policyAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Statements about creating an Iranian military base in the Mediterranean Sea are an exaggeration as I rule out that European powers will allow such a presence in their waters, particularly by a state whose activities they are suspicious of. I also don’t think Israel will allow this. Israel recently sent back an Iranian ship loaded with weapons trying to pass through Bab al-Mandeb Strait. In the past, the Israeli navy pursued Iranian ships which were heading to Sudan and shelled one of them.
If Iran succeeds in keeping the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria in place, it will not need to create naval military bases there because it will actually be in control of the regime in Damascus as part of an alliance which it will not be easy for Assad to get rid of. Although Iran has claimed there are two reasons for its involvement in the Syrian war - protecting Shiite shrines and paying back the Assad regime for standing with it during its war with Iraq in the 1980s - these are actually not convincing excuses in the calculations of political relations. Tehran considers controlling Syria as a necessity to control Iraq in order to protect its presence, influence and interests in this strategic Arab country.
Iran’s wide-ranging military operations in Iraq and Syria confirm that engaging in wars has become Iran’s new policy and shows that improving its military capabilities represents a major pillar in its foreign policy. Ever since it broke free from the Western siege and became capable of engaging in international trade and using the dollar, Iran has been trying to become a dominating power by expanding geographically, on land and by sea. This means we stand in the face of a ten-year regional arms race and more military exploits in the region.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on November 29, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed