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Navy Doctrine - Asymmetric Warfare

General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces said in remarks published on 27 November 2016 that Iran needed a fleet in the Indian Ocean that would be equal to the one stationed in the Gulf of Oman, and urged the Navy to enhance its intelligence activities by working on satellite and cyber-space technologies, as well as by developing naval drones. Iran should also develop its own naval infrastructure, as its coasts could provide space for several new ports, the major general said, stressing that the Islamic Republic should break Russias monopoly on providing Central Asian countries with access to international waters.

Iranian Navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told the gathering of senior navy commanders that Iran should boost its military presence in international waters to protect its economic interests and demonstrate its power. The navy has already deployed 49 flotillas to various maritime zones, the admiral said, adding that Iran particularly provided security of the northern Indian Ocean and showcased Irans symbol of power, as reported by Tasnim. He said that Iranian warships have escorted 3,844 merchant vessels and oil tankers through the Gulf of Aden, thus securing them from pirates and preventing a blow to the Iranian economy.

Iran has incorporated lessons from the Iran-Iraq conflict and subsequent regional wars such as Operation DESERT STORM, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM into its naval strategy. In studying these conflicts, the IRGC decided that Iran should plan to fight an asymmetric war against potential enemies. According to the IRGC commander, an asymmetric war would involve "working on all the weaknesses of the enemy and the maximal usage of our capability." By choosing an asymmetric approach, however, Iran was not abandoning modern military technology. The IRGC claims that Iran would use its growing arsenal of modern weapons, including cruise missiles, modern mines, and submarines, but in a different way and at a time and place the enemy would not know or expect.

During the 1990s, the regime sought to rebuild from the Iran-Iraq War and bolster its national defenses. The IRGC, the favored military force due to its performance in the Iran-Iraq War, took the lion's share of Iranian defense funding, increased domestic weapons production, and ramped up the procurement of weapons from Russia, China, and North Korea:xxx Naval acquisitions included C802 anti-ship cruise missiles (both sea- and land launched systems) and numerous patrol boats.

The IRIN devoted the bulk of its acquisition funding to order three KILO-class attack submarines. Submarines had long been on the IRIN's list of desired platforms. During the Shah's reign, the navy had ordered both U.S. TANG- and German TYPE 209-class diesel submarines. Despite the change of regime, the navy's Shah-era plan to acquire submarines was finally realized.

With the receipt of new equipment, Iran continued to develop its naval tactics. Even the IRIN focused on developing integrated tactics using several weapons and platforms simultaneously (including its new submarines, smaller missile boats, mines, aircraft, and land-based missile systems) to overwhelm an enemy. Aware of its weakness against a modern air campaign, Iran also began decentralizing its command structure in order to decrease its reliance on communications and enable continued resistance in the event of an attack. Iran has continued enhancing nearly all its weapons systems and developing its tactics, watching and learning from regional conflicts, through the 1990s to the present time.

Iran's naval forces are unlikely to make wholesale changes to their naval strategy. However, it is clear that Iran will modify its strategy when appropriate. Rear Admiral Daneh-Kar noted that Iranian planners would review and revise their operational doctrine based on lessons learned from past and current operations, as well as on the capabilities of new weapons systems entering the service. He continued, "We cannot develop the Navy's operational doctrine in isolation."

Recent activity bears witness to some of this adaptation. IRIN commander Rear Admiral Sayyari has stated that the IRIN will push operations further out into the Gulf of Oman and even the Indian Ocean to protect Iran's maritime interests, and, as mentioned earlier, Iran claims its naval forces are conducting extended patrols. A decade hence may see more frequent IRIN patrols in the north Arabian Sea or Indian Ocean. To support this, the IRIN has a plan to establish new naval bases along the Gulf of Oman by 2015 and strengthen its presence outside the Strait of Hormuz. The IRGCN will likely continue to patrol and operate inside the Persian Gulf, a place where its asymmetric tactics and numerous platforms are at an advantage. However, its modernization efforts may provide it with more sophisticated platforms.

Iran sees itself as a regional power, and its naval forces, the IRIN and the IRGCN, plan to support this view as they work to expand both their weapons inventories and their capabilities. According to Iranian officials, "extra-regional" forces are neither welcome nor necessary in the waterways of the Middle East, and the Iranian armed forces have "proven during these 30 years of the revolution that they are ready to defend the territory of their country."




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