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Navy Bases

Iran may seek to set up naval bases in Yemen and Syria in the future, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces said in remarks published on 27 November 2016. His comments, likely to worry Irans Sunni regional rival Saudi Arabia and its allies, raised the prospect of distant footholds perhaps being more valuable militarily to Tehran than nuclear technology. We need distant bases, and it may become possible one day to have bases on the shores of Yemen and Syria, or bases on islands or floating (bases), said General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, quoted by the Shargh daily newspaper. Is having distant bases less than nuclear technology? I say it is worth dozens of times more, added Baqeri, who was speaking at a gathering of naval commanders.

Iran is a key backer of the Houthi rebels in Yemen and has soldiers fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels in Syria. In a rare rebuke for Iran, a Houthi official on Sunday criticized Baqeris comments and urged Tehran to read about the history of failed attempts to occupy Yemen. Not one inch of Yemens land or waters will be forfeited to any foreign party whether a friend or an enemy, said Saleh al-Samad, the Houthis political council chief said.

On 22 November 2016, Iran said that it was increasing its naval capabilities by building three new bases in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, citing security threats posed by Somali pirates.

The great plateau of Persia, which resembles in many respects the veldt of South Africa, breaks precipitously towards the sea all along the southern boundary of the country. But the abrupt mountains, though they frequently seem to hang right over the waters of the Gulf, never quite project to the shore, but are protected from the waves by an intervening space of shelving land which varies in width from one to twenty miles. There is, therefore, no place on the Persian coast where the mountain scarp so intrudes on the sea as to form a natural harbor. At the same time it rises so abruptly and so near the shore, that the rains which scour its face have no time, even if they were frequent enough, to combine into a great river before they reach the sea, or vanish in the torrid sands at the foot of the cliffs.

The only variations in this grand but monotonous landscape are formed by occasional spits of sand and coral which run out into the sea at Bushire, for instance, and Naband and Jask, and by islands like Sheikh Shuaib, and Kishm, and Ormuz, which, lying off the mainland, form channels which are more or less protected from the prevailing winds. It is quite true that the protection which is given by the sandy spits at Jask and Bushire is not only poor in itself, but rendered even less useful by the shelving bottom, which prevents an ordinary cargo-steamer from coming near the shore. Still, they form the beginnings of harbours which might easily be improved, as, for example, in the case of Bushire, where a little dredging would convert an open roadstead into a splendid haven. Then, again, the Islands of Kishm and Ormuz are so situated as to provide almost unlimited anchorage. As for the Arab coast, it possesses some of the finest harbors in the whole of the East.

The navy has its headquarters at Bandar-e Abbas. In 1977 the bulk of the fleet was shifted from Khorramshahr to the newly completed base at Bandar-e Abbas, the new naval headquarters. Bushehr was the other main base. Smaller facilities were located at Khorramshahr, Khark Island, and Bandar-e Khomeini (formerly known as Bandar-e Shahpur). Bandar-e Anzelli (formerly known as Bandar-e Pahlavi) was the major training base and home of the small Caspian fleet, which consisted of a few patrol boats and a minesweeper. The naval base at Bandar Beheshti (formerly known as Chah Bahar) on the Gulf of Oman had been under construction since the late 1970s and in late 1987 still was not completed. Smaller facilities were located near the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian naval operations were organized into five major zones, three on the Persian Gulf (Bandar Abbas, Bushehr and Khark), one on the Caspian Sea (Bandar Anzali), and one on the Indian Ocean (Chah Bahar). Bandar Abbas is the main Iranian naval base, providing a home for the main components of Iran's navy (its frigates and destroyers), as well as functioning as the navy's main ship repair yard. Bandar Anzali had become increasingly important, having minesweeping and full coastal water defense capabilities. Nou Shahr, also on the Caspian, is increasingly important, housing the Iranian naval academy.

By 1976 the 6 major ports of Bandar-e Abbas, Bandar-e Shahpur, Chah Bahar (known as Bandar-e Beheshti after the 1979 Revolution), Bushehr, Abadan, and Khorramshahr had a capacity of 12 million tons, with expansion projects underway. By late 1977, unloading delays, which had caused serious issues in commerical transport through Iran's ports, were no longer a problem. As a result of war damage, the ports of Abadan and Khorramshahr were closed in 1980, leaving the other four main ports and twelve minor ports in operation.

By 1977 the bulk of the fleet was shifted from Khorramshahr to the newly completed base at Bandar-e Abbas, which became the new naval headquarters. Bushehr was the other main base. Smaller facilities were located at Khorramshahr, Khark Island, and Bandar-e Khomeini (formerly known as Bandar-e Shahpur). Bandar-e Anzali (formerly known as Bandar-e Pahlavi) was the home of the small Caspian fleet. Other facilities were being constructed, such as Bandar Beheshti (formerly Chah Bahar), construction of which had begun prior to 1979.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Iranian naval continued to use many of the existing naval facilities, expanding during the conflict and into the Tanker War mainly to offshore oil platforms, used as improvised forward operating bases. By the end of the conflict, international particiaption, primarily by the United States, had led to main of Iran's purpose built naval facilities and improvised bases suffering damage. Extensive repairs and expansions continued to be conduct throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s.

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