Iran's naval forces continue to change in order to better execute their naval strategy. Since 2007 the IRIN and IRGCN have been undergoing a reorganization that has included new base openings and a re-division of duties between the navies. Although the two navies have traditionally shared operations in the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman, the reorganization split the IRIN and IRGCN areas of responsibility. The IRIN was assigned to the Gulf of Oman and Caspian Sea, while the IRGCN was given full responsibility for operations in the Persian Gulf.
This reorganization and the establishment of new bases are in keeping with Iranian naval strategy in the event of a conflict. Because Iran's naval doctrine is based upon access denial, the realignment of IRIN assets further into the Gulf of Oman and the concentration of IRGCN fast boats, suicide boats, and coastal defense cruise missiles in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf better allow Iranian naval assets to contribute to and extend Iran's layered defense strategy.
Throughout the restructuring, senior commanders in the IRIN and IRGCN have reiterated that the reorganization of existing bases and the creation of new bases create a line of defense that would prevent an enemy from accessing the Strait of Hormuz and, thus, the Persian Gulf. IRIN Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari stated that new IRIN bases will extend from Bandar Abbas, near the Strait of Hormuz, to Pasa Bandar near the Pakistan border by 2015. Similarly, IRGCN Commander Rear Admiral Morteza Safari described the necessity of creating a new 4th Naval District base at Asaluyeh to increase military capability in case of any instability caused by foreigners in the Persian Gulf.
The goal of the naval reorganization is allowing the IRIN and the IRGCN to operate in accordance with their relative strengths and thereby better contribute to Iran's layered defense strategy may not be fully realized because of a lack of infrastructure and resources. At a minimum, both naval forces may experience some growing pains as they assume their new areas of responsibility.
The geographic split of the two services not only streamlines command and control by reducing the need to coordinate and deconflict between different naval services operating in the same water space, but should also reduce confusion or mis-communication that an enemy could exploit in wartime.
This division of Iran's primary bodies of water is logical given the characteristics of IRIN and IRGCN ships. The IRIN operates traditional large warships and auxiliary ships, which have the endurance and sea-keeping qualities needed for extended patrols and missions in open waters. This makes the IRIN the natural service to deploy in the Gulf of Oman to push Iran's reconnaissance as far out as possible and also to engage enemy forces as far away from Iranian territory as possible. The IRGCN operates a force of much smaller boats, most of which lack the endurance or configuration to remain at sea for more than a few days. These boats will now operate in the enclosed waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait, and will rarely be far from an IRGCN base.
The reorganization has not been without challenges. Although the IRGCN 4th Naval District and the IRIN 2nd Naval District have already relocated to Asaluyeh and Jask, respectively, the new naval bases probably cannot accommodate all of the reallocated assets because of a lack of pier space and support infrastructure. The IRIN has plans to expand these and other coastal ports, but the time and resources required to do so mean that these investments will payoff only in the longer term.
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