Iran forges ahead with Atlantic ambitions

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Navy commander Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari announced June 14 that Iran is planning to establish a naval presence in the Atlantic Ocean. In conjunction with this statement, he said, “We have yet to determine which country will assist us regarding the presence of our naval fleet. When the name of the chosen country is confirmed and announced, our strategic naval forces will deploy a training and military flotilla to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Sayyari also made announcements about new developments related to the “Mowj” (“Wave”) project, saying that Mowj frigates 3 and 4 have yet to be named but are 80% complete in terms of their construction, and thus in operation. His most important announcement, however, was about the fifth frigate in this series, which according to Sayyari is 90% complete. This vessel, which is slated to be launched in 2017, has been named Sahand. According to Sayyari, the Sahand, which is the latest type of Iranian-made frigate, has 30% greater stealth capabilities compared to earlier models and is equipped with newer weapons.

This is not the first time that an Iranian navy commander has brought up the matter of an Iranian presence in the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, the Islamic Republic has been preparing its naval fleet to be present in the Atlantic Ocean for the past three years. Iran faces three main issues in this regard.

First, the Iranian naval fleet is inefficient. When discussing the Iranian navy and its possible presence in the Atlantic Ocean, one can obviously not compare this with the presence of strong naval fleets such as that of Russia, China or Britain. For the most part, Iran’s navy is made up of older combat and logistics ships, haulers as well as old tankers that were purchased during the reign of the shah. These vessels are designed based on the Italian and British warship platforms of the 1950s and 1960s.

As soon as Iran further enters critical regions such as the eastern Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden, the South China Sea and, in the future, the Atlantic Ocean, the media and politicians will start paying attention. This attention could in turn lessen the pressure caused by temporary tensions between Iranian and other fleets in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Of note, Iran is also trying to increase its combat experience by conducting joint naval exercises with countries such as India, Pakistan, Russia and China. Of course, at home, Iran’s navy has to deal with expanding threats from rivals such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

What is clear, however, is that Iran has an ambitious plan to expand its naval fleet to play a key role in all parts of the world. In this vein, Iran’s policy of designing and manufacturing heavy nuclear submarines and advanced destroyers, as well as development of surface-to-surface missiles and naval ports, shows that the country is aiming to become a naval power in the future — just as has been put forth as a goal of Iran’s defense programs by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Full article: Iran forges ahead with Atlantic ambitions (Al Monitor)

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