Tehran sets out ambitious naval plans amid Gulf row
TEHRAN / BEIRUT
Iran’s supreme leader Khamanei (2nd R) appears during the delievery of the first developed guided-missile destroyer Jamaran, in this file photo. The head of Iran’s navy says the country aims to put its warships in international waters off the U.S. coast. EPA photoIran’s top military officials have made statements regarding its increased naval presence in the Persian Gulf and off the U.S. coast. The head of Iran’s navy said the country aims to put its warships in international waters off the U.S. coast “in the next few years,” while a senior Revolutionary Guards commander said Iran is the “only power” that can secure the oil-rich Gulf.
Admiral Habibollah Sayyari’s comments concerning Iranian naval presence off the U.S. coast, made on state television, are part of Iran’s response to Washington’s beefed-up naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain, across the gulf from Iran.
“The only power that can provide security for the region is the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the world is slowly grasping this,” another top commander, Admiral Ali Fadavi, the Guards’ top naval chief, said. “The presence of the Americans causes insecurity in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman,” Fadavi said. “The Americans live with the delusion that they are powerful. But the Islamic Revolution’s power is derived from God’s eternal power and it is incomparable.”
Fadavi’s comments were made ahead of war games scheduled to be held in the Gulf Sept. 16-27 jointly between the U.S. and 20 other nations. The exercises will test the ability to clear Gulf waters of mines, a tactic the U.S. fears Iran could use to impede oil-tanker traffic in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Gulf.
The naval arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, with its 20,000 servicemen, is tasked with defending territorial waters in the Gulf, while Iran’s regular navy is deployed to the Indian Ocean and beyond.
[HH] Iran could strike U.S. bases: Nasrallah
The Iranian admirals’ comments came a day after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Iran could hit U.S. bases in the Middle East in response to any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities, even if American forces played no role in the attack.
“A decision has been made to respond, and the response will be very great,” Nasrallah said in an interview with Beirut-based Al Mayadeen television. “The response will not only be inside the Israeli entity; American bases in the whole region could become Iranian targets,” he said, citing information he said came from Iranian officials. “If Israel targets Iran, America bears responsibility.”
Nasrallah said there were divisions within Israel over attacking Iran. “Personally I do not expect the Israeli enemy, at least in the coming months or foreseeable future, [to wage] an attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Nasrallah pointed to the fragile global economy, which would be weakened further by any sharp rise in crude oil prices stemming from conflict in the Gulf, and to likely Israeli casualties in any war with Iran.
“[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak inflate the benefit and play down the cost,” he said, referring to Barak’s estimates that Israel could suffer up to 500 fatalities in any conflict aimed at wiping out Iran’s nuclear facilities.
He also denied that his group possessed chemical weapons. “We don’t have chemical weapons and we cannot use them for reasons linked to Shariah, and also for humanitarian reasons,” Nasrallah said.