Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Naval Policy of Iran

This is a term paper I wrote for my course on the Politics of the Middle East. Comments and discussion invited.

The Naval Policy of Iran


“Strategy,” Norman Friedman writes, “is about ends and means.”[1] For every state with a coast, naval policy is one of those means. It is a means which varies in appearance according to the ends a state wishes to achieve. A state may choose to build a navy to achieve certain ends – or it may choose not to build a navy in order to achieve other ends. Moreover, sometimes a state may choose not to have a naval policy because there are no ends which seapower can help it achieve.

For those states which do have a naval policy, it is a means which usually serves foreign policy ends. States often have a wide variety of goals in foreign policy; accordingly, naval policy may have a wide variety of elements designed to serve each of these goals. That is, the naval policy of a state is shaped by the goals of that state.

Iran is no exception. Iranian naval policy is a product of Iran’s foreign policy goals. The goal of this paper is to explore the naval policy of Iran and explain its role in Iranian national strategy.

Iran’s naval policy is particularly important because of Iran’s geopolitical position: she has some 1,500 miles of coastline in the most volatile part of the world. This is a region which possesses some two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves; some 20% of global oil production passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a stretch of water only twenty miles across which separates Iran from Oman. Moreover, the Arabian Gulf – or, to an Iranian, the Persian Gulf – serves both as a barrier between Iran and her ideological enemies on the Arabian Peninsula and as a highway for the United States into the heart of the Middle East. There is perhaps no other body of water as critical to the entire world as the Gulf.

Modern Iranian naval policy has been shaped by a number of elements which we will explore. Some of these are historical – naval policy under the Shah and the experience of the Iran-Iraq War. Others stem from two key areas of Iranian foreign policy – vis-à-vis the Gulf states and vis-à-vis the United States. Finally, we will examine the potential uses of Iranian weapons of mass destruction at sea.

“The Farthest Shores of the Indian Ocean:”[2] Naval Policy under the Shah

Up to the late 1960s, Iran had little in the way of a naval policy. There had been a few abortive attempts at constructing a navy, but these had been thwarted by the British – in particular, by the joint Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran in 1941. However, by the 1960s, Iran was again ready to try “to rid the Persian Gulf of foreign interference and to establish an independent national policy.”[3]

The opportunity came in 1968, when “the British announced their impending withdrawal East of Suez.”[4] In the following year, the United States promulgated its “twin pillar” policy: the US would not directly replace the British presence, but rather would rely on Iran (and to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia) to secure the Gulf. By 1971, when the British withdrew from the Gulf, the US-supported Iranian naval buildup had already begun.

The Shah might only have built a force adequate to control the Gulf – but factors beyond the Gulf led to a far more expansive naval policy. “In the early 1970s, the Shah drew attention to a ‘Soviet-inspired pincer movement’ against Iran through Iraq and India.”[5] This fear was backed by Soviet-Indian and Soviet-Iraqi treaties signed in 1971, as well as the presence of Indian warships in the Gulf of Oman during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War and the later appearance of Indian warships in Iraqi ports.

As a result, Iran began moving toward a “blue water navy” – that is, a navy that could operate “beyond the Gulf.”[6] Instead of a small force of missile boats and patrol craft, the Shah ordered a fleet: six cruisers, twelve destroyers, and twelve submarines, besides lesser warships, auxiliaries, and long-range maritime patrol aircraft, all to be built in the West.[7] There was even talk of buying a small aircraft carrier, presumably to counter the old ex-British carrier operated by India. Existing naval bases in the Gulf were expanded, and construction of new bases on the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman was begun. It was a navy, the Shah wrote, that “could have reached the farthest shores of the Indian Ocean.”[8] More to the point, it was a navy that not only could have “[kept] the United States and the Soviet Union physically out of the Persian Gulf,”[9] but also cemented Iran’s status as the dominant power in the Middle East and established her as a rival to India in South Asia.

But it was not to be. The vast and ever-expanding costs of the Shah’s navy contributed to delays in its construction, and by the time of the Shah’s overthrow in 1979, few of the ships had been delivered.[10] The rest were cancelled by the Iran’s revolutionary government.

“The Inflamed Gulf Waters:”[11] Naval Policy in the 1980s

It is not clear exactly what, if any, naval policy the leaders of the Islamic Revolution had in mind in 1979. Certainly they rejected the American alliance – while they favored an independent foreign policy, what they had in mind was a good deal more independent than the Shah’s policies had been. In the early days of the revolution, “foreign policy was driven by ideology.”[12] There were competing ideologies within the revolution, but the dominant faction had this in common: they believed in exporting the revolution throughout the Islamic world.

Where naval policy would have fit into this vision is uncertain. What is certain is that the question was rendered academic when, on 22 September 1980, Iraq invaded Iran. Thereafter, naval policy would be shaped by the war, its lessons, and its effects on the region.

Upon the outbreak of war, the Iranian navy defaulted to its Imperial-era role of sea control in the Gulf. However, in this context, Iran’s sea control was not meant to provide security for the West, but rather to deny Iraq access to the Gulf and protect Iranian trade in the Gulf. If successful, this would cut off a major avenue for Iraqi oil exports and arms imports, while keeping Iranian ports open and maintaining her access to the outside world.

The Iranian navy moved quickly to gain command of the sea. Two days after the war began, Iranian warships moved up the Shatt-al-Arab to attack Basra, then Iraq’s main port and naval base, as well as two offshore oil terminals. Both sides claimed victory. Although Iran’s naval base at Khorramshahr, just below Basra on the Shatt-al-Arab, was taken by Iraqi forces in October, at the end of November the two sides fought “what was considered the main naval battle in the Iran-Iraq War”[13] when Iran attempted to capture the Iraqi offshore oil terminal at Mina al-Bakr, off the Faw Peninsula. The operation failed, and while losses on both sides are still unclear. However, it is clear that as a result of this and other actions in the first few months of the war, by the end of 1980 Iran had succeeded in gaining command of the sea: “for the remainder of the war, the Iraqi fleet was bottled up in home waters, and could not challenge the Iranian navy.”[14]

As a result of this Iranian success at sea, the Iraqis were forced to export oil via pipelines traveling to third parties such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and little in the way of imports reached Iraqi by the Gulf route during the war years.[15] While the blockade of Iraq was not a decisive factor in the war, it did contribute to the eventual financial exhaustion of Iraq that helped bring an end to the war.

The second part of Iran’s sea control strategy was trade protection. This involved the convoying of Iranian shipping to protect it from Iraqi attack, as well as the defense of Iranian oil terminals and coastal cities. Convoying began almost at once, as did Iraqi attacks on Iranian shipping and coastal targets, but what became known as the “Tanker War” did not begin in earnest until 1984.

The Tanker War was an Iraqi effort to bypass Iran’s command of the sea by utilizing Iraq’s command of the air and its possession of maritime attack aircraft (primarily French-built Mirages armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles) to destroy shipping bound to and from Iranian ports, particularly tankers carrying the oil exports that were funding Iran’s war effort. Unable to prevent the attacks or to effectively retaliate against Iraqi shipping (as there was none), Iran responded by launching occasional air and sea attacks against ships belonging to Arab countries, which, while officially neutral, were friendly to Iraq. These attacks caused little real damage, but did lead Western powers to take on an increasingly active role in protecting neutral shipping. The eventual result was direct naval conflict with the West.

Affairs began to come to a head in 1987. As attacks on neutral shipping continued, Kuwait requested American support; in July, the U.S. launched Operation Earnest Will, in which American warships convoyed reflagged Kuwaiti tankers through the Gulf. During the very first convoy, the tanker Bridgeton was damaged by an Iranian mine. Two weeks later, another American tanker struck a mine. In September, US warships “captured the Iranian landing ship Iran Ajr caught laying mines.”[16] The following month, after another US-flagged tanker was hit, American forces destroyed the Rostum oil platform, which was being used as a communications base.

Iranian attacks on neutral shipping continued into 1988. For the U.S., the last straw came on 14 April when the frigate Samuel B. Roberts was nearly sunk by an Iranian mine. In retaliation, the U.S. launched Operation Praying Mantis, in which American naval units attacked and destroyed two Iranian oil platforms that had been used as bases for attacks on Gulf shipping. U.S. forces also sank an Iranian missile boat and sank or severely damaged two Iranian frigates when they came out to counterattack.[17] These were the last major engagements of the war, which ended soon after.

The war had mixed results for Iranian naval policy. She had succeeded in gaining sea control in the face of a Gulf opponent, although maintaining sea control had proved difficult in the face of enemy air power. However, her policy of harassing neutral shipping had been a complete disaster, as it had brought her into direct conflict with Western powers, during which Iran had learned that her naval forces could not stand up directly to those of the West. Finally, the war had brought about the establishment of a major American naval presence in the Gulf. As Iran began repairing the damage from eight years of war, she set out to establish new policies reflecting those hard-earned lessons and the new realities in the Gulf.

“The Prevailing of National Interest:”[18] Postwar Naval Policy and the Gulf States

In the immediate aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War, Iran’s policy was one of containment of Iraq. To this end, Iran began “an attempt to reconstruct a shattered service whose equipment [was] in dire need of modernization.”[19] In June 1989, shortly after the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran and the Soviet Union concluded an arms deal that included modern combat aircraft capable of gaining air superiority over the Gulf and striking vessels on it, as well as three new Kilo-class submarines “intended to counter the imminent delivery of six frigates to Iraq from Italy.”[20] Other deals with China provided for more aircraft, naval mines, missile boats, and anti-ship missiles.

Little of this equipment had been delivered when the next Gulf crisis arose in 1990. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait created the kind of international coalition against Iraq which Iran had long sought; the war that followed largely disarmed Iraq. The Iraqi navy, which had added several Kuwaiti vessels to its strength, was virtually destroyed by Coalition aircraft in a series of engagements that became known as the “Bubiyan Turkey Shoot.”[21] Iraq’s ability to attack Gulf shipping and coastal targets from the air was further reduced by severe losses to its air force – including more than a hundred aircraft which fled to Iran – and the establishment of a southern no-fly zone that effectively barred Iraqi aircraft from Gulf airspace.

With Iraq neutralized and the Ayatollah Khomeini dead, Iran embarked on a new foreign policy “made distinct by the prevailing of national interest over religious ideology.”[22] That is, postwar Iran “understood that it needed to build a good relationship with its neighbors”[23] and gradually worked toward rapprochement with the Gulf states. Those efforts included a series of diplomatic gestures and economic agreements, but on security arrangements Iran could make no headway. Nevertheless, perhaps as a result of the rapprochement, there was a slowing of the pace of naval rearmament on both sides of the Gulf. Iran has procured no major warships since the delivery of the three Russian submarines and ten Chinese missile boats, and while the Gulf states have replaced existing vessels, they have not expanded their naval forces significantly since the 1980s.

Today, Iran appears to have little in the way of a naval policy directed at the Gulf states. In large part this is because the traditional enemy, Iraq, has not had a navy worth mentioning since 1991 and, in the wake of Saddam’s overthrow, is unlikely to acquire one any time soon. More important is the fact that the Gulf states have chosen to rely on the United States for their security. Thus, as with many other security questions in the Gulf, the naval policy of Iran (and the other Gulf states) is intimately tied up with the presence of the United States.

“‘The Persian Gulf is Our Backyard:’”[24] Postwar Naval Policy and the United States

The United States never wanted a major presence in the Gulf. The “twin pillars” policy of 1969 was meant to provide Gulf security without an American commitment. However, the events of 1979 – the overthrow of the Shah, the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran and the accompanying collapse in U.S.-Iranian relations, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan – meant that the “twin pillars” policy was no longer workable. In January 1980 it was replaced by the Carter Doctrine, which stated in part that “any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States.”[25] In practice, this meant that the United States would have to take the lead role in Gulf security, which in turn meant that the American presence in the Gulf region would be dramatically expanded. That expansion, coupled with the events of the Iran-Iraq War and other events beyond the Gulf (such as Iranian support of terrorism) eventually brought Iran and the United States into direct conflict during the Tanker War.

As a result of these and other events, Iran and the United States share a deep mutual distrust. Consequently, “the idea of collective security without the presence of foreign forces in the region became the focus of Iranian Persian Gulf policy in the 1990s.”[26] This was a policy “very similar to that of the Shah in the 1960s and 1970s. … The main difference now was Iran’s opposition to the United States.”[27] That is, Iran wants to reassert its historical role as the dominant regional power – and sees the United States as the main obstacle in its path.

To this view of the United States as an obstacle is added the Iranian fear that the US might become an outright enemy. American policies ranging from the Clinton-era “dual containment” to the current administration’s inclusion of Iran in the “Axis of Evil” have been backed by the continuing presence of American forces in the region. Together with the decisive military results of the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq, American policy and presence contribute to an Iranian fear that they might be next on the US hit list. The US Navy – particularly its aircraft carriers, which now routinely operate within the Gulf and can strike targets deep within Iran – would play a significant part in any American attack on Iran. Thus, it has become a goal of Iranian naval policy “to create a credible deterrent against the US Navy.”[28]

How to effectively deter the US and its navy is a complicated question. The experience of the Tanker War and later observations of the US Navy in action against Iraq showed that Iran could not contest the Americans for sea control in the Gulf, as she had done against Iraq. Rather, Iran must pursue a strategy of sea denial, preventing the US from using the sea to access Gulf oil, supply its troops in Iraq, and attack Iran with its aircraft carriers and other warships. That is, “they would blockade the Straits of Hormuz and engage in naval operations to harass the US Fifth Fleet.”[29]

Iran has several means of carrying out these missions. Mine warfare is perhaps the most obvious. Iran made effective use of mines against tanker traffic during the Tanker War, while Iraqi mines damaged two American warships in 1991. In 1999, Iran was estimated to have at least 2,000 sea mines on hand.[30] Today, she may have as many as 5,000.[31] These weapons can be laid by almost any vessel, as well as aircraft; particularly dangerous potential minelayers are the Iranian submarines, which can carry up to 24 mines each and lay them covertly. If laid in the Strait of Hormuz – or even reported to be laid there – they could drastically restrict the flow of oil out of the Gulf, as well as inhibiting the freedom of movement enjoyed by US warships. In part to counter this threat, the US has stationed three mine-countermeasures ships in Bahrain.

Another means is by missile attack. Iran currently has approximately twenty missile boats, each armed with four Chinese-pattern anti-ship missiles. If used against unescorted merchant ships, they might meet with some success, but their effectiveness in the face of American warships is questionable. Similar craft were slaughtered by Coalition air power during the 1991 war against Iraq; Libyan and Iranian missile boats engaging US forces during the 1980s were also roughly handled.

However, Iranian missile capability is not limited to surface ships. During the 1990s, Iran added an air-launched anti-ship missile capability to its arsenal.[32] Iraq used this capability to good effect during the Tanker War, including an attack that nearly sank the American frigate Stark; several British warships were lost to Argentine aircraft firing missiles during the 1982 Falklands War.

Most effective for blockading the Strait of Hormuz are Iran’s land-based missile batteries, which are “deployed in shelters or tunneled facilities. Iran has established fixed and pre-surveyed launch sites near the Strait of Hormuz and in a number of other locations.”[33] These missile batteries could make transits of the strait even more hazardous. Argentina employed land-based missiles in the Falklands War, and Iraq fired at least one land-based missile at Coalition warships in 1991.

Iran has also developed a “doctrine of asymmetric naval warfare” based on “swarming tactics.”[34] During the Tanker War, “mass swarming tactics” proved a failure; instead, Iran has developed “dispersed mass swarming tactics.”[35] Using these tactics, dozens of speedboats would attack a target from several directions at once. To that end, Iran is reported to have deployed more than 1,000 such craft in the Straits of Hormuz.[36] Such craft, mostly armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, were used for harassing attacks during the Tanker War. It is unlikely that these craft could do any significant damage, but it is possible that they could be used for suicide attacks such as the one which damaged the American destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000.

Iran’s most powerful warships are her three Kilo-class submarines. Built in Russia, these are modern diesel-electric boats armed with up to 18 torpedoes capable of sinking anything up to a cruiser and doing significant damage to larger vessels such as aircraft carriers. However, submarine operations in the Gulf are difficult owing to oceanographic conditions; the Gulf is shallow, making it hard for submarines to hide, and the Strait of Hormuz presents difficult operating conditions for a submarine. Further, “US experts are not particularly impressed by the performance of Iranian crews, particularly in using their torpedoes.”[37] However, Iran’s submarines are her only weapons system currently able to pose a serious threat to US aircraft carriers.

“Decisively Enhance the Lethality:”[38] Weapons of Mass Destruction at Sea

Most examinations of weapons of mass destruction concentrate on their strategic uses. However, Iranian weapons of mass destruction may have significant tactical roles that bear on naval policy.

Iran possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons. Chemical and biological weapons are of relatively little use at sea; this writer is unaware of any chemical or biological attacks ever being attempted on ships. It is difficult enough to hit a ship with a weapon; it is generally considered that conventional attacks are far more damaging and that given the low success rate, chemical and biological attacks are not worth the effort.

However, this is not the case with nuclear weapons. The use of a nuclear weapon may “decisively enhance the lethality”[39] of an attack on a ship – particularly if that ship is a well-defended target such as an aircraft carrier. When attacking such a target, the likelihood of a hit is low; the likelihood of destroying it with a single hit is even lower. However, nuclear weapons offer a “one shot, one kill” (or at least “one hit, one kill”) capability against such targets.

Should Iran use a nuclear weapon against an aircraft carrier, “the goal would be not only to destroy a military target, but also to inflict sufficient casualties and shock to cause the United States to break off.”[40] However, this might have the opposite result – the “Pearl Harbor effect” – and draw a nuclear retaliation against Iran.

Nevertheless, in the absence of a credible nuclear threat to the American homeland, a nuclear threat to a high-value military target might be the only effective way for Iran to use its nuclear force as a deterrent to American action. That is, a credible nuclear threat to an American carrier operating in the restricted waters of the Gulf might force that carrier to withdraw outside the Gulf, where its ability to project power against Iran is reduced by virtue of the greater distances its aircraft are forced to fly.

Assuming Iran develops a working nuclear weapon, it has several delivery options. US aircraft carriers make regular port calls in Bahrain and at Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates. Both cities are well within range of Iran’s existing ballistic missiles, which could be adapted to deliver nuclear warheads. Existing anti-ship missiles could also be fitted with nuclear warheads; adding a nuclear capability to Iran’s land-based anti-ship missile batteries positioned on the Strait of Hormuz would make a transit of the strait extremely hazardous. A suicide attack by a small craft equipped with a nuclear weapon, similar to the Cole attack, is another danger; over the years, there have been several accidental collisions between US ships and local small craft. Finally, submarines fitted with nuclear torpedoes might present the greatest danger of all.[41]

Iran’s nuclear weapons may also go to sea in a strategic role. In the 1950s, the US and the Soviet Union began building nuclear-armed submarines to extend the reach of their strategic nuclear forces and enhance the effectiveness of their nuclear deterrent by deploying a credible second-strike force. More recently, Israel has done the same thing by deploying nuclear missiles on its three submarines.[42] Iran may eventually move in this direction as well.


Iran is not a sea power in the classical sense. She is primarily a land power. However, her geopolitical circumstances are such that she has established certain foreign policy goals which can be met in part through the application of a naval policy.

This is true in large part because her most powerful adversary is a sea power. The United States uses the sea for the security of many of its interests in the Middle East – most importantly, the oil that flows through the Strait of Hormuz. In the course of guaranteeing this supply, the United States and Iran have come into conflict over a basic issue: Iran wants the United States out of the Gulf so that she can resume what she perceives as her rightful place as the dominant power in the region, while the United States does not want the Islamic Republic to achieve this aim.

Thus, the naval policy of Iran today is primarily directed at the United States. As Iran is not capable of fighting the United States on equal terms, Iran has adopted a number of asymmetric strategies built around the concept of sea denial. While these strategies are at present based on conventional weapons, in the near future they may shift to a reliance on nuclear weapons. If Iran does become a nuclear power, she may also come to increasingly rely on the sea for the security of her nuclear deterrent. In any event, the naval policy of Iran will remain relevant for as long as the Gulf itself remains relevant.

If Iran and the United States are on a collision course, part of that collision will come at sea – and as Thucydides is reported (perhaps apocryphally) to have said, “A collision at sea can ruin your whole day.”

Works Cited

Alexander, Brian, and Alistair Millar. Tactical Nuclear Weapons. Washington: Brassey’s, 2003.

Arie, Sophie. “‘We Stopped Getting Orders From Iraq A Long Time Ago.” The Guardian, 12 May 2003.,2763,954049,00.html .

Burr, William, and Thomas S. Blanton, eds. “The Submarines of October.” The National Security Archive, .

Byman, Daniel L. et al. Iran’s Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era. Santa Monica: RAND, 2001.

Cordesman, Anthony H. Iran’s Military Forces in Transition. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

“DoD Interests and Activities in Iran.” 5 August 1975.

El-Shazly, Nadia El-Sayed. The Gulf Tanker War. London: MacMillan Press, 1998.

“Fifth Fleet Focus: Iranian Underwater Warfare Capabilities.” 24 September 2007. .

Friedman, Norman. Seapower as Strategy. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001.

Haghshenass, Fariborz. “Iran’s Doctrine of Asymmetric Warfare.” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 21 December 2006. .

“Iran’s Hormuz Fleet Includes More Than 1,000 Heavily-Armed Speedboats.” World Tribune, 22 June 2007. .

“Iraqi Navy to Receive Saddam-Era Corvettes from Italy.” Navy League of the United States, June 2005. .

Karsch, Efraim. “Military Power and Foreign Policy Goals: The Iran-Iraq War Revisited.” International Affairs vol.64, no.1 (Winter 1987-88), 83-95.

Marolda, Edward J. “The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf.” .

Marschall, Christin. Foundations of Iran’s Persian Gulf Policy. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Pahlavi, Mohammed Reza. The Shah’s Story. Translated by Teresa Waugh. London: Michael Joseph, 1980.

Schulz, Ann Tibbitts. Buying Security: Iran Under the Monarchy. Boulder: Westview Press, 1989.

Simons, Marlise. “Cream of Iraq’s Navy is Idled on the Riviera.” New York Times, 9 February 1991. .

“Submarine: Israel Current Capabilities.” Nuclear Threat Initiative, .

Walker, George K. The Tanker War, 1980-88: Law and Policy. Newport: Naval War College, 2000.

Winkler, David F. “Operation Praying Mantis Blows a Hole in Iranian Navy.” Navy League of the United States, September 2003. .

Zabih, Sepehr. “Iran’s Policy toward the Persian Gulf.” International Journal of Middle East Studies vol.7, no.3 (July 1976), 345-358.


[1] Norman Friedman, Seapower as Strategy (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001), 9.
[2] Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (translated by Teresa Waugh), The Shah’s Story (London: Michael Joseph, 1980), 130.
[3] Christin Marschall, Foundations of Iran’s Persian Gulf Policy (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 6.
[4] Ibid., 7.
[5] Ann Tibbitts Schulz, Buying Security: Iran Under the Monarchy (Boulder: Westview Press, 1989), 17.
[6] Ibid., 23.
[7] “DoD Interests and Activities in Iran,” 63.
[8] Pahlavi, 130.
[9] Marschall, 9.
[10] Budgetary pressures reduced the order for six cruisers to four. After Iran cancelled the order, the four ships were sold to the U.S. Navy, which operated them (as the Kidd-class destroyers) until the late 1990s. They have since been resold into Taiwanese service. An ex-U.S. submarine (Khousseh, ex-Trout), transferred to Iran in 1978 but abandoned by her Iranian crew at New London, Connecticut in 1979, remained in limbo until 1992, when she was returned to American ownership. Most of the other ships were never built.
[11] Nadia El-Sayed El-Shazly, The Gulf Tanker War (London: MacMillan Press, 1998), 234.
[12] Marschall, 17.
[13] El-Shazly, 188.
[14] Ibid., 194.
[15] Many of Iraq’s imports came via the Jordanian port of Aqaba on the Red Sea. See George K. Walker, The Tanker War, 1980-88: Law and Policy (Newport: Naval War College, 2000), 42.
[16] Ibid., 63. Iran Ajr was later scuttled.
[17] David F. Winkler, “Operation Praying Mantis Blows a Hole in Iranian Navy,” Navy League of the United States, September 2003, . The damaged frigate was eventually repaired and returned to service.
[18] Marschall, 24.
[19] Shahram Chubin, Iran’s National Security Policy (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1994), 43.
[20] Ibid., 44. It is unclear exactly what ships Chubin means. Iraq ordered eleven warships from Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri during the war with Iran, but none were delivered due to a series of arms embargoes against Iraq. Most were eventually resold to other buyers, but two sat at La Spezia for many years, manned by skeleton crews. In 2005, it was announced that they would be delivered to Iraq. See Sophie Arie, “‘We Stopped Getting Orders From Iraq A Long Time Ago,” The Guardian, 12 May 2003; “Iraqi Navy to Receive Saddam-Era Corvettes from Italy,” Navy League of the United States, June 2005; and Marlise Simons, “Cream of Iraq’s Navy Idled on the Riviera,” New York Times, 9 February 1991.
[21] Edward J. Marolda, “The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf,” .
[22] Marschall, 24.
[23] Ibid., 148.
[24] Ibid., 150.
[25] Ibid., 181.
[26] Ibid., 149.
[27] Ibid., 149.
[28] Byman et al., 90.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Anthony H. Cordesman, Iran’s Military Forces in Transition (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999), 196.
[31] “Fifth Fleet Focus: Iranian Underwater Warfare Capabilities,” 24 September 2007. .
[32] Cordesman, 167.
[33] Ibid., 200.
[34] Fariborz Haghshenass, “Iran’s Doctrine of Asymmetric Warfare,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 21 December 2006. .
[35] Ibid.
[36] “Iran’s Hormuz Fleet Includes More Than 1,000 Heavily-Armed Speedboats,” World Tribune, 22 June 2007, .
[37] Cordesman, 205. I would add that American and Canadian submariners of my
acquaintance have had only rude things to say about their Iranian counterparts.
[38] Ibid., 269.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Brian Alexander and Alistair Millar, Tactical Nuclear Weapons (Washington:
Brassey’s, 2003), 123.
[41] The Soviet Union deployed nuclear torpedoes on its submarines during the
Cold War. See William Burr and Thomas S. Blanton, eds., “The Submarines of
October,” The National Security Archive, .
[42] “Submarine: Israel Current Capabilities,” Nuclear Threat Initiative,


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