The Islamic Republic of Iran Naval Forces, The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy IRIN /Islamic Revolutionary Guard Naval Forces IRGCN:

Tehran has two independent naval forces: the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN), whose existence predates Iran’s 1979 Revolution. Moreover, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), which emerged separately in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war (1985). Both the IRIN and the IRGCN continue to operate as distinct services, with parallel chains of command. The IRIN, for instance, with its extensive, longer-range surface assets, is estimated to be more of a blue water navy. The IRGCN, whose inventory consists principally of small fast-attack craft, is more ideally suited to be a coastal defense force, but this is changing. [1] Anti - access/area denial (A2/AD) are modern terms referring to warfare strategies focused on an opponent from operating military forces near, into or within a contested region. It is a strategy intended to defend against an opponent of superior military capabilities. It also composed of corrosive international diplomatic, political, and economic employments.

“In light of Iran’s pursuit of A2/AD capabilities, it seems unlikely that the U.S. military’s legacy planning assumptions will remain valid. Iran has had ample opportunity over the last twenty years to examine the “American way of war” and to deduce that allowing the United States and its allies to mass overwhelming combat power on its borders is a prescription for defeat. Therefore, Iran is pursuing measures to deny the U.S. military access to close-in basing and make traditional U.S. power-projection operations in the Persian Gulf possible only at a prohibitive cost,”

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Outside-In Operating from Range to Defeat Iran’s Anti-Access and Area-Denial Threats by Mark Gunzinger with Chris Dougherty 2011 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Iran’s Naval Mosaic Warfare Doctrine’s Strategic Triangle Maritime, Irregular Warfare (MIW) A2/AD

The Islamic Republic pursues an asymmetric “hybrid” A2/AD strategy that mixes advanced technology with guerilla tactics to deny U.S. forces basing access and maritime freedom of maneuver.

Tehran would mobilize its network of predominately militant Shiite proxy groups and criminal and mercenary factions located across the Mid-east region.

Iran’s naval forces would engage in swarming “hit and run” attacks using sophisticated guided munitions. Tehran could coordinate these attacks with salvos of antiship cruise missiles and swarms of unmanned aircraft.

Lethal AD capabilities range from the sophisticated to the crude but effective. They include cruise and ballistic missiles; naval mines; anti-tank guided rockets, mortars, and artillery; electronic warfare; and short-range/man-portable air defense and anti-armor systems. Revolutions in information; personal computing, communications, and networking; and irregular and hybrid forms of warfare combined with the proliferation of precision weapons and improvised battlefield lethality substantially widen the universe of effective AD adversaries from individuals and loosely organized groups to sophisticated regional powers. Likewise, the networked mobilization of foreign popular, nonviolent resistance may also prove to be a significant challenge to freedom of action in the future as well. To the extent U.S. opponents can leverage all of these capabilities and methods both directly and through proxies, the more the AD challenge will expand geometrically. As noted above, an effective combination of political, economic, and informational methods with sophisticated lethal and/or disruptive AD capabilities will make any specific challenge more resilient and potent.

Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) 20 Year Plan 2005 to 2025

“Senior IRIN and IRGCN commanders have emphasized that the realignment of existing bases and the creation of new bases will create a line of defense to prevent potential threats, namely U.S. and allied naval strike groups, from reaching the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. This reorganization does more than just extend Iran’s defensive depth along the southeastern coast; it reflects a significant change in strategy and sets forth a vision in which Iran’s Navy has regional relevance far beyond its shores. The IRIN commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, repeatedly cites the Supreme Leader’s directive to expand the IRIN’s reach as a critical underpinning to Iran’s 2025 outlook, framing Iran’s regional prominence and prosperity as contingent on naval expansion and development. Sayyari emphasizes that Iran intends to influence the strategic maritime triangle that extends from the Bab-al Mandeb strait at the southern end of the Red Sea to the Strait of Hormuz and even across the Indian Ocean to the Strait of Malacca. With 2025 as a target date to meet the Supreme Leader’s strategic guidance, the IRIN has significant time to continue the fleet modernization, procurement, and diplomatic outreach needed to support its desired capability level,”

Middle East Security Report:  Iran’s Two Navies Commander Joshua Himes, U.S. Navy | October 2011

Tehran’s Naval Warfare Mosaic Doctrine:  Building the Maritime Shiite Crescent Six Geostrategic Factors

The Islamic Republic of Iran seeks to dominate four major Maritime / economic arties. This is being done by building up its naval and irregular warfare, proxy allies’ capabilities.

  • 1.      Horn of Africa: its location across the Red Sea from the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula; Yemen, Gulf of Aden, Bab el-Mandeb Straits.
  • 2.    Horn of Africa / Red Sea an almost 2,500-mile coastline (stretching from Eritrea's border with Sudan in the north to Somalia's border with Kenya in the south) lying astride the Red Sea and the South African Cape maritime routes;
  • 3.       The Red Sea to Sinai Peninsula, Strait of Gubal, Gulf of Suez to the Suez Canal, to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • 4.       Strait of Titan , Gulf of Aqaba , areas of Saudi Arabia , Sinai peninsula, Jordan , Israel’s port of Eilat
  • 5.       Africa is an important in offsetting international sanctions. Impoverished African countries are desperate need economic investment and trade.
  • 6. and a source of uranium.     

IRI’s Naval Warfare Mosaic Doctrine’s Strategic Triangle Maritime Irregular Warfare (MIW)

The Mosaic doctrine naval reflects Tehran’s focuses on a strategic triangle that extends from the Bab al- Mandeb between Djibouti and Saudi Arabia, across the Arabian Sea to the Strait of Hormuz, and across the Indian Ocean to the Malacca Strait. This area encompasses strategic maritime commerce/ oil routes that the Islamic Republic deems essential to securing the future of the Islamic Republic. 

“A Definition of Maritime Irregular Warfare: MIW comprises, at various times, both irregular and conventional warfare activities, perpetrated by both irregular and conventional forces, against irregular and conventional enemies. The combination of actors and methods involved determines whether the activity in question qualifies as MIW, at least one actor must be irregular, and the operations must take place in a maritime environment, including riverine operations. In its consideration of both the actors and tactics involved, our conception of MIW goes beyond earlier actor-focused doctrinal definitions of IW,”

Characterizing and Exploring the Implications of Maritime Irregular Warfare 2012, page 87 prepared for the United States Navy Approved for public release; distribution unlimited /RAND

The key strategic feature of Tehran’s naval doctrine rest with the Bab-el-Mandeb, this is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

Eritrea has fostered close political, military, and economic ties with Iran. Iran has used Eritrea as a base to provide weapons to Shiite Houthi insurgents in Yemen.

“The growing ties between Yemen’s Houthi Shi’ites and Iran poses another threat to both Saudi Arabia and the US. It potentially could allow Iran to outflank the Gulf, and deploy air and naval forces into Yemen. This threat still seems limited, but it is important to note that Yemen’s territory and islands play a critical role in the security of another global chokepoint at the southeastern end of the Red Sea called the Bab el Mandab or “gate of tears.”

Yemen situation in a report by CSIS Arleigh Burke Chair in Strategy Anthony Cordesman. April 2015  Writing in “The Changing Security Balance in the Gulf,”

Yemen has a 1,900-km (1,181 mile) coastline that also juts into the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.Security remains a concern for foreign firms in the region, as Bab el Mandeb lies next to Yemen, a relatively insecure area where there have been several attacks on foreign ships, oil tankers, and pipelines. Of note the attempted attack on the USS The Sullivans in January 2000; an attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, during which 17 U.S. sailors were killed and 37 more wounded; and an attack on the MV Limburg, a French civilian oil tanker, in October 2002, during which one crewmember was killed and about 90,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Aden. In recent years, this region has also seen rising piracy, and Somali pirates continue to attack vessels off the northern Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden and southern Red Sea including the Bab el-Mandab. [2]

Understanding Maritime Choke Points: World oil transit chokepoints are a critical part of global energy security. About half of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes. Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes, some so narrow that restrictions placed on the size of vessel that can navigate through them. They are a critical part of global energy security due to the high volume of oil traded through their narrow straits. The international energy market is dependent upon reliable transport. The blockage of a chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs. In addition, chokepoints leave oil tankers vulnerable to theft from pirates, terrorist attacks, and political unrest in the form of wars or hostilities as well as shipping accidents that can lead to disastrous oil spills.

Strait of Bab el-Mandeb aka (Bab al-Mandab) International Maritime Oil Choke Point [3]

In Arabic, Bab el-Mandeb means “Gate of Tears” referring to the strait’s precarious navigation. The strait is about 32 km (20 mi) wide. The island of Perim divides the strait, creating two channels: The eastern channel is called Alexander’s Strait (Bab Iskender) and is 3.2 km (2 mi) wide. The western channel, Dact-el-Mayun, is 25.6 km (16 mi) wide.

The Bab el-Mandeb Straits separates Africa (Djibouti and Eritrea), and Asia (Yemen), and connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Aden.

The Strait of Bab el-Mandab is a chokepoint between the horn of Africa and the Middle East, and a strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. It is located between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea, and connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Most exports from the Persian Gulf that transit the Suez Canal and SUMED pipeline also pass through the Bab el-Mandab. The Strait of Bal el- Mandeb is strategically important because it is considered one of the world’s major oil transit chokepoints. Closure of the Bab el-Mandeb would keep tankers from the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal/Sumed pipeline complex, forcing maritime oil shipments around the southern tip of Africa. This would effectively engage spare tanker capacity, and add to transit time and cost. The Strait of Bab el-Mandab could be bypassed via the East-West oil pipeline, which crosses Saudi Arabia with a nameplate capacity of 4.8 million bbl./d. However, southbound oil traffic would still be blocked. In addition, closure of the Bab el-Mandab would block non-oil shipping from using the Suez Canal, except for limited trade within the Red Sea region. In addition, closure of the Bab el-Mandab would block non-oil shipping from using the Suez Canal, except for limited trade within the Red Sea region. [4]

The Bab al-Mandab Strait represents the bottleneck of the Red Sea. It is where its width does not exceed 40 kilometers (22 miles). Furthermore, the Island of Perim Island divides the strait into two corridors. The one to the east is about two miles wide, and the other one, the western corridor, is about 25 Kilometers (16 miles) in width. The eastern corridor is not used for the big ships or for international navigation because it is narrow and its depth is about 25 meters (85 feet). The eastern corridor is often used by small boats between Thobab port in Yemen, and Berbera in Somalia, Djibouti, Assab in Eritrea. The western corridor is the main passage of the Bab al-Mandab Strait. It is used for international navigation. It is deeper and wider than the eastern corridor. Its depth is about 301 meters (990 feet). The bottan of the Strait is covered by rocks, but there is a hill which emerges above the surface of water in the form of Perim Island.

Bab-el-Mandeb was the site for of a naval blockade of Israel by Egypt in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Egyptian Navy imposed a blockade on Eilat, an important Israeli port by closing the Bab el-Mandab strait in the Yom Kippur War. The Egyptian Red Sea Destroyer made its way to the Bab el-Mandab strait on October 6, 1973 and remained there for seven months. The Egyptian Navy intercepted and prevented any importing or exporting of goods to and from Israel, including petroleum products. [5] The Islamic Republic of Iran has been particularly interested in relations with African countries, especially those in the Horn of Africa and lying along the Red Sea, primarily Sudan where it has IRGC forces stationed.  The North African Countries which border the Mediterranean Sea, the IRI wants to expand into.   Tehran sees East Africa as fertile ground for its political, military and economic activities. East Africa is part of IRI’s overall strategy, which aspires to hegemony and the status of a major power in the Middle East (in key locations such as the Persian Gulf, Syria and Lebanon, Iraq and the Arab Palestinian arena especially the Hamas since it has Mediterranean Sea Border. 

On March 31, 2015 the Iranian backed Yemen's Houthi militia entered a coastal military base overlooking the Red Sea's strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait, Soldiers of the 17th Armored Division in the Dabab district in Yemen's southwestern Taiz province opened the gates to the Houthis, whose military advance has been challenged by six days of Saudi-led air strikes. This means that Houthi rebels have a foothold along one of the world's crucial oil chokepoints. [6]

 To be continued 

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