Analysis

Iranian Navy Could Wage Guerrilla Attacks in Gulf
The Iranian navy frigate IS Alvand passes through the Suez Canal, February 22, 2011, the first time an Iranian war ship traversed the canal since the 1979 Iranian revolution. (AP Photo, File)
December 15, 2011
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
Summary
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Although an upcoming Iranian naval exercise underscores the threat Iran poses to the vital Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s immediate maritime strategy is actually more nuanced and intended to deter a U.S. attack on its nuclear program by enhancing its ability to wage an asymmetric “guerrilla” campaign against U.S. maritime interests in the Gulf. In the event of a conflict with the United States, Iran would most likely seek to control the sea lines of communication in the Gulf, rather than shut them off completely. However, this naval exercise demonstrates the growing strength of the Iranian navy and how Iran’s decade-long strategy of maritime “self-sufficiency” is finally beginning to pay dividends.

By deploying domestically produced surface combatants, mini-submarines, and versatile anti-ship cruise missiles, Iran plans to extend its maritime range of operations and defend against potential adversaries. Although Iran’s navy is still no match for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, it hopes that a strategy of proportional asymmetric deterrence in the Persian Gulf would dissuade the United States from attacking either its nuclear program, or its other strategic assets. 

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