Iran’s pro-Palestinian naval stunt extends arc of coastline influence - analysis

Iranian naval "parade" involves some 2500 boats in support of the IRGC Navy

IRGC forces are seen in the 17th Great Prophet drill in Iran. (photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)
IRGC forces are seen in the 17th Great Prophet drill in Iran.
(photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was said to hold a “parade” in support of the Palestinians on Thursday.

According to various Iranian state media, this is the “biggest parade of the authority of the naval mobilization of the IRGC Navy... in support of the Palestinian people... on the shores of the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea, and the Caspian Sea.”

According to the claims, the stunt was expected to have involved some 2,500 boats and floating vessels from a whole plethora of IRGC-linked units, including the Basij. Tasnim News said the “sea parade” was in support of the Palestinian people and the cause of the “liberation” of Jerusalem.

The various events reportedly took place “in the countries of the axis of resistance and on the coasts of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, and Iraq,” presumably meaning that Hamas participated from Gaza, claiming it is doing this in “Palestine.”

According to earlier reports, the IRGC Navy was expected to send its vessels, which usually include hundreds of fast boats of varying type and quality, some of which have been recently outfitted with drones and other weapons. The IRGC Navy generally surpasses the actual Iranian Navy in terms of its support from the regime and its role in regime activities, often operating in the Persian Gulf, where it has harassed vessels in the past.

Oil tanker seized by the IRGC, October 31, 2022 (credit: FARS NEWS AGENCY)Oil tanker seized by the IRGC, October 31, 2022 (credit: FARS NEWS AGENCY)

Iranian state media additionally claimed that according to the IRGC Navy’s public relations, Rear-Admiral Alireza Tangsiri “said that the maritime parade will be held on April 13 in the northern and southern coastal regions of the country as well as in a number of ports around the world.” He said this was “to defend the [oppressed] people of Palestine, support their intifada and condemn the heinous and cruel crimes of the Zionist regime. The largest popular parade by the vessels of the IRGC Navy’s Basij is planned for 15:30 on Thursday.”

Iran displays naval prowess

Iran put out various statements tying together the parade of vessels with outrage at Israel’s activities in Jerusalem. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that Iran wants to show off an “effective and deterrent” action against Israel.

This all comes as Iran takes part in meetings with Russia and China in Uzbekistan, the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad meets in Baghdad with officials, and also as the pro-Iranian Nujaba movement in Iraq threatened Israel with drone attacks in a propaganda video.

Though these parades serve as propaganda, they also exhibit fresh Iranian capabilities. The fact that Iran was openly planning this for various countries shows that even as it reconciles with Saudi Arabia, it intends to continue to use Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza as threatening boards against Israel.

The coastlines of these areas add up to a large arc of Iranian influence. Recent moves by Iran in Iraq and Syria point to Iran shifting focus to those countries, and away from the Houthis in Yemen. The naval parade shows off a power Iran generally lacks, which means it does not generally have a very large navy, and neither do its proxies or allies.