If Iran springs the moorings

(To Denise Serangelo)

The Saudi attacks on Shiite positions in Yemen do not stop in the night and, while the world is divided, someone looks suspiciously at the forefront of Iran, which is currently having to face a regional political climate to say the least effervescent.

Should the situation degenerate further, the strengthening of the Iranian naval presence in the Gulf of Aden can not be excluded, which has been the subject of an unexpected overcrowding for some days.

Four Egyptian warships have already been deployed in the region to support the military effort in Riyadh, and the Turks - numerically unspecified - are on their way - and a part of the American fleet deployed in the Persian Gulf is expected.

Iran - main actor antagonist to Saudi forces - with what means and operational capabilities would support its regional interests?

It would be good to start by saying that the Iranian Navy does not have a solid authority, indeed.

It has always been the smallest of the armed forces in the region and its composition has reflected an operational approach linked exclusively to the security of national interests and the exercise of its sovereignty over coastal waters.

Increasing his awareness of playing an influential role on the important commercial channels of the Persian Gulf has changed over time, reaching an acceptable standard with unique and tactically discrete characteristics.

The peculiarity of the Iranian fleet lies in having a military apparatus parallel to the regular one: the Guard of Islamic Revolution, better known as Pasdaran, is organized according to a land and naval component.

The Revolutionary Guards now counting on 120.000 men are a highly feared military component for their highly ideological motivation and are placed directly under the command of the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The naval component of the Corps, on the other hand, has about 22.000 men providing services with various naval structures.

The commander in chief is Admiral Morteza Saffari and, like the commanders of the terrestrial and aerial components, reports to the parallel military hierarchy that replies to the Ayatollah Khamenei.

Iran has carried out a reorganization of the responsibilities of the two bodies from 2007: the Pasdaran navy has taken control of operations in the Persian Gulf, while IRIN has focused on those outside the Gulf.

This was not a random choice, in fact, the Strait of Hormuz (which delimits the Persian Gulf) in most of its extension does not measure more than 100 nautical miles of width, making the maneuvers of large ships complex, such as the American aircraft carriers of the Fifth fleet stationed within the Gulf.

It is instead functional to the strategies of the naval forces of the pasdaran - small, fast and light - given that the portion of sea overlooking the north coast of the Persian Gulf is dotted with rocky coves ideal for operations-lightning with boats.

The new mission of the regular Navy is therefore to consolidate and develop the naval presence outside the Persian Gulf, ie in the Gulf of Oman, in the northern Arabian Sea while the Navy of the Pasdaran has as its sole responsibility the defense of the interests of the Islamic Republic in the Persian Gulf.

The two fleets not only have different regional skills but are composed of distinct structures.

For the Iranian regular navy the main nucleus consists of the SABALAN corvette that reflects a legendary global obsolescence partially faced through limited modernization interventions.

Western supplies were largely replaced with materials mainly from the People's Republic of China and North Korea, with some limited form of logistic support provided by India and Pakistan.

Perhaps the most valuable assets - because they are more modern - are the three "Kilo" class submarines (Tareq, Noor and Yunes), acquired in Russia between the 1992 and 1996: all based on Bandar Abbas, two of them should be available continuative and sporadically litigated in the Eastern approaches of the Strait of Hormuz.

For now, despite the proclamations and rhetoric, the Iranian regular Navy can not be considered a naval sea force or even be able to "dominate the Indian Ocean". According to its leaders: the main operational effort of recent times has been realized with the sending, since May 2009, of a corvette and a supply unit in the Gulf of Aden, in order to protect the Iranian merchants from the attack of pirates operating from the Somali coast.

The Navy of the Pasdaran instead has adopted an asymmetrical operational doctrine centered on unconventional war aspects necessary to face rapid attacks in multiple directions and whose main purpose is to prevail over the adversary through a war of attrition that exploits the material weaknesses and erodes his desire to continue a military confrontation.

Capable of easily dispersing and simultaneously developing a firepower useful for attack and defense, the Pasdaran navy is a versatile but not decisive tool whose renowned reputation is more a propaganda tool than a military threat.

However, leaving aside the incisiveness of this structure, there is no doubt that repeated and targeted attacks lead the enemy to suffer psychologically destabilizing but not tactically significant losses.

The Navy of the Pasdaran has therefore adopted and practiced two types of swarm tactics: mass attack with concentrated assets and mass attack with dispersed assets.

The first resorted to a large number of very fast boats equipped with light armament, at most the superstructure anti-tank rocket launchers; these are vessels that can take to the sea even from a simple beach, without any infrastructure and then converge from different directions in order to attack one or more targets.

In the second tactic, we resort to fast thin units with torpedo and missile armaments that, being larger than a simple boat, need a minimum of port infrastructures: these means can take the sea from geographically dispersed locations and are concealable to the discovery enemy thanks also to the fact of being confused with fishing boats.

This second type of tactic is much more difficult to discover and deal with precisely because the units do not operate in mass, as in the first case, but in a less concentrated and insidious way.

In the event of a conflict, most Iranian naval assets appear destined not to survive as long as they have to operate in the open sea: airborne aviation and precision ammunition should not have excessive problems in neutralizing these assets well before they arrive at engagement distances useful for their weapon systems.

The armed confrontation of limited scope, against local conventional forces, or against mercantile traffic; in these circumstances, the use or even the threat of the use of asymmetric systems would certainly create confusion in one of the most critical areas of the planet.

Given and considered what has been said so far it seems desirable for the Iranian fleet to remain in front of the giants of the Navy from all over the world, however it would be politically unacceptable a stalemate of resources and resources in the face of the ferment surrounding the Gulf of Aden.

Iran is therefore faced with a difficult strategic crossroads: losing face but protecting its fleet and its men or launching itself into a titanic enterprise from which many will hardly return.

The choice seems obvious only to us.

(photo: Fars News Agency)