Q: Stratfor explains that the Iranian Navy’s recent maneuvering is mainly symbolic, suggesting that the only real naval threat Iran poses is its ability to disrupt maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf (especially in the strategic Strait of Hormuz). How much trouble can the Iranians really cause in the Gulf?
For all that has been said about Iran’s nuclear program, the country poses a much graver threat in the waters off its southern coast. The Iranians are uniquely capable of disrupting maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf, even though doing so would prompt regional and international responses to restore freedom of navigation. How successfully they could disrupt traffic would depend largely on their ability to achieve strategic surprise. If the Iranians were able to undertake this kind of operation without being detected, they would be even better able to affect shipping throughout the region.
Their strategy would entail a multilayered threat. They would use a variety of vessels, from fishing trawlers to submarines, to lay naval mines in the Persian Gulf, and the longer they do so without being detected the greater the risk to other vessels. Fast attack missile boats, midget submarines and coastal anti-ship cruise missile batteries would reinforce the mines, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would employ swarm boat tactics. This layered threat could imperil maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, especially if the Iranians had the element of surprise, but it is susceptible to extended dismantling operations carried out by U.S. and allied forces in the region.
—Omar Lamrani is a Military Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm that provides strategic analysis and forecasting to individuals and organizations around the world. More on the Iranian Navy Threat can be found here.