Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Coming to a sea near you

The Iranian Navy:
Iran plans to send ships near the Atlantic coast of the United States, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Tuesday, quoting a commander.
"The Navy of the Iranian Army will have a powerful presence near the United States borders," read the headline of the story, in Farsi.
"Commander of the Navy of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran broke the news about the plans for the presence of this force in the Atlantic Ocean and said that the same way that the world arrogant power is present near our marine borders, we, with the help of our sailors who follow the concept of the supreme jurisprudence, shall also establish a powerful presence near the marine borders of the United States," the story said. The reference to the "world arrogant power" was presumably intended to refer to the United States.
IRNA cited the force's website as saying that the announcement was made by Adm. Habibollah Sayari on the 31st anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war.
Ooooooooh-kay.  Galrahn has more:
If we speculate based on comments earlier this year by Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, the head of U.S. Southern Command, it probably means Iran is going to send one of their corvettes escorted by one of their logistics vessels to make a port visit to Venezuela. It will be interesting to see which vessels Iran sends on this rather long voyage.

It is unclear when Iran plans to send out this flotilla to the Caribbean Sea, but it is worth noting that if it is soon - and it probably would happen within the next few weeks based on Iran's historical pattern for major announcements and major deployments - both the Iranians and the Chinese will have naval vessels in the Caribbean in the fall of 2011. That both China and Iran would be operating in the Caribbean in and of itself does not represent a national security threat, but it does expose the United States to the uncomfortable emerging geopolitical reality of the 21st century where regional powers do have global ambitions. Politically I see no evidence that US leaders have prepared American civilians for this emerging 21st century reality.
I'm not sure that American civilians need to be "prepared" for this.  We've had enemy combatants off our shores for centuries.  British, French, German, Japanese, Soviet.  It's not like the american people will be able to see them from shore, at least not yet.  The real issue is for the US military.

What are the mullahs actually doing?  Again, Galrahn:
I see the Iranian deployment in two ways. First, Iranian power projection by sea is by itself - not a national security threat to the United States. Any ships the Iranians deploy to the western hemisphere poses no direct threat at all. With that said, direct threat is not their intention even if their rhetoric wants you to focus on that aspect of their deployment.
And second:

Back in February when the Iranian corvette Alvand and the Iranian supply ship Kharg crossed the Suez canal to make port in Syria, there was much speculation regarding what Iran was trying to achieve. My initial thought was the Iranians were probably smuggling weapons on the Kharg. Later we learned that my speculation was accurate, and within several days of the Iranian naval vessels departing the region the Israeli Navy seized the merchant vessel Victoria which had recently left the same port in Syria and happened to be heavily loaded with Iranian arms that are illegal for export under UN sanctions and were intended for delivery in Gaza.


Based on what we have seen from Iran the last few years, it is getting more and more clear the Iranians no longer trust their merchant vessel network for long range voyages, which is why we are seeing the Iranian Navy now making longer voyages in various seas - including consistently to the "Red Sea" and "Gulf of Aden" to fight pirates, even though every nation involved in anti-piracy knows that isn't what Iran's Navy is actually doing - except by occasional random accident.

Using naval ships to move weapons cargo makes things significantly more reliable as a transport mechanism for potentially illegal or politically controversial cargo by Iran, because no nation is ever going to allow a foreign government to thoroughly inspect one of one of their naval vessels. If Iran has secured access to various ports between Iran and the destination near the United States capable of providing the logistics necessary for the journey, then deploying naval vessels to the western hemisphere would be the logical way for Iran to deliver weapons to this part of the world.
Weapons smuggling.

And trying to stop an Iranian Navy ship smugglign weapons will provoke at the very least an incident and possibly a war.

Oh, goody.

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