Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced a new plan on November 29 to dispatch naval forces to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Earlier, the Iranian media reported that the Navy’s 44th flotilla of warships for the first time entered the Atlantic Ocean on November 22, after making a stopover at South Africa’s Port of Durban. The claim was dispute by some regional observers.
Speaking at an exhibition showcasing latest Iranian naval technologies such as naval radars, simulators and torpedoes, Sayyari also announced that the Iranian Navy planned to conduct a large-scale naval war game, codenamed Velayat-95 in the Iranian month of Bahman (January 20 to February 18).
Last week, Iran’s Army Commander Major General Ataollah Salehi said his country’s locally manufactured Tareq submarine and Khark warship were ready for naval missions in international waters as far as the Atlantic Ocean.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has repeatedly called on the Iranian Navy to expand presence in international waters. “Our country has long maritime borders and a long history of seafaring. Thus, the power and capability of the Islamic Republic’s Navy should be in line with the merit and level of the Islamic Establishment and the country’s history,” he told a gathering of senior officials on the Navy Day in November.
While Iranian officials often exaggerate about the country’s military capabilities, it is undeniable that the Iranian regular naval forces as well as those of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) have increased the reach and scope of naval deployments in the region.
On November 26, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the Iranian chief of staff of the armed forces, sounded alarm in the region when he called for setting up naval bases across on the coasts of Yemen and Syria. Even an official from Iran ally Houthi group in Yemen condemned Baqeri’s comments.
The announcement by Iranian officials about expanding naval activities comes at a time when US navy officials complain about an increase in “irresponsible” actions by the IRGC naval forces in the region.