Iranian Naval Infantry
Iran has significant amphibious assets compared to other Gulf countries. The amphibious and airborne units of the Iranian military comprise a not inconsequential power projection capability, by regional standards. Iran's significant amphibious lift gives its marines the capability to conduct limited amphibious raids along the Gulf coast. Those same amphibious units, in conjunction with its airborne forces could threaten the Musandum Peninsula. Iranian naval infantry and special forces prepare to seize the ports and cities of the Gulf Emirates. In each of these scenarios, however, very limited air support would be available.
According to Cordesman, "Iran has significant amphibious assets by Gulf standards, and the regular Navy and naval branch of the IRGC have independent marine forces. These assets are large enough to move a battalion-sized force relatively rapidly, and include: 3 Hengam-class (Larak-class) LST amphibious support ships (displacement of 2,940-tons loaded) that can carry up to six tanks, 600 tons of cargo, and 227 troops; 3 Iran Hormuz-class (South Korean) LSTs (2,014-tons loaded) that can carry up 9 tanks and berth 140 troops, and. 3 Hormuz-21 class 1,80-ton LSTs and 3 Fouque class 176-ton LSLs. Iran’s amphibious ships give it the theoretical capability to deploy about 1,000 troops, and theoretically about 30-40 tanks in an amphibious assault – but Iran has never demonstrated that it has an effective over-the-shore capability. Iran might use commercial ferries and roll on-roll off ships if it felt they could survive..."
Iran’s Army does not train seriously for long-range maneuver and does little training for amphibious warfare or deployment by sea. Cordesman notes that "It does not practice difficult amphibious operations, particularly “across the beach” operations. It could, however, deploy into Kuwait and cross the border into Iraq. It can also move at least brigade-sized mechanize units across the Gulf by amphibious ship and ferry if it does not meet significant naval and air opposition to any such movement. It lacks the air strength and naval air and missile defense capabilities to be able to defend such an operation."
Presently the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Pasdaran, includes the entire Iranian Naval infantry, variously estimated to contain from 2,500 to approximately 5,000 troops, and a combat strength of one brigade. Other sources show this force subordinated to the Navy. Iranian amphibious units could easily conduct amphibious raids of a special operations nature, especially against economic and infrastructure targets along the coast. Such raids would of necessity be small and especially limited in duration due to the very limited air cover and naval gunfire support which the Iranian military could provide. But Iran’s training to date has focused on amphibious raiding and not on operations using heavy weapons or larger operations.
In 1986 Iraq suffered a major loss in the southern region. On February 9, Iran launched a successful surprise amphibious assault across the Shatt al Arab and captured the abandoned Iraqi oil port of Al Faw. The occupation of Al Faw, a logistical feat, involved 30,000 regular Iranian soldiers who rapidly entrenched themselves. Saddam Husayn vowed to eliminate the bridgehead "at all costs," and in April 1988 the Iraqis succeeded in regaining the Al Faw peninsula.
In 1992, Iran reasserted full direct control of Abu Musa. Iran claimed it did so because it had not received a fair share of the offshore oil production from the island, although the Iranian media soon began to refer to the entire island as Iranian territory and as part of "Hormuzgan Province.'" Iran expelled 100 workers that had UAE, rather than Iranian, visas and expelled many of the Arab residents.
During April and May 1992, Iran staged the largest amphibious exercise it had conducted since the end of the Iran-Iraq War. This exercise took place in the Straits of Hormuz at the same time that Iran was reasserting its control of Abu Musa. The exercise lasted 11 days, demonstrating Iranian capabilities to block the Straits from an outside invader (i.e., the US)411. The exercise covered an area of some 10,000 square miles of ocean, and involved 45 surface ships, 150 small craft, and an unknown number of Iranian Air Force aircraft.
In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems. A senior Iranian naval commander said in April 2011 the country's Army has for the first time equipped the Navy's hovercrafts with long-range missiles. “Iran is the only country in the world that has fitted its navy's hovercrafts with surface-to-surface missiles,” IRNA quoted Rear Admiral Seyyed Mahmoud Moussavi, a top Navy commander, as saying.
In October 2011 Iran's naval forces, on board the domestically-built Jamaran destroyer, rescued an Iranian oil tanker from a pirate attack near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. According to Iranian Navy Deputy Commander Rear Admiral Seyyed Mahmoud Mousavi, the Iranian oil tanker, which was headed towards the Gulf of Aden from the Red Sea, was attacked by 15 pirate speedboats, but managed to safely cross the danger zone with the help of the naval forces. He went on to add that Iranian marines through their timely action had forced the pirates to flee and succeeded in saving the Iranian oil tanker. This was the first anti-piracy operation carried out by the Jamaran destroyer, which embarked on its first mission in international waters on 09 October 2011.
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