Iran’s top military official Mohammad Bagheri said this Sunday that despite US sanctions, the Islamic Republic has so powerful a navy that it can protect regional waters all by itself.
In a show of power projection, Iranian officials held a ceremony near the country’s southern waters this Saturday to welcome back two Iranian warships after eight months of round-the-world trip. Following the successful mission, Iran said on Sunday that its navy is strong enough to protect regional waters from threats, and the longest trip in Iran’s navy history that was accomplished just recently is very well proof of this claim.
“In cooperation with other regional actors, Iran is fully capable of securing regional waters,” Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces said in a press conference Sunday evening.
He also noted that Iran has “no need for foreigners to ensure the security of regional waters, which are currently secured by our navy men of the army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”.
Bagheri then addressed US recent provocative moves in the Persian Gulf and said that “Western countries need to explain what they are doing in the Strait of Hormuz, thousands of kilometers away from their territorial waters”.
It was last week that along with the United States Navy’s 5th Fleet, the Middle East-based navy commanders of France and the United Kingdom toured the Strait of Hormuz on the USS Paul Hamilton to send the message to Tehran that there is unity against Iran, and that they have concerns over the safety of ships traversing the waterway. Good to mention that the Strait of Hormuz is one of the most strategic locations in the world, through which a fifth of global oil supplies pass.
Iran’s Navy, stronger than ever now
Signs of Iran’s increasing power in the maritime area abound these days. Just this Saturday, Iran’s state media announced that the country’s Navy is ready to send its warships to Antarctica as soon as June. The announcement was also a response to the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post, which had stated last week that “Tehran is trying to show that it is capable of developing naval power away from home,” but “it has a small navy” anyway.
In addition, the Iranian ships of the 86th Fleet, which left on an around-the-world voyage last Fall, returned to the Persian Gulf shores this week, returning safely and successfully from a 51,000-kilometer journey and breaking the record for the distance an Iranian flotilla has ever sailed in international waters.
The vessels started the long trip from the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean and moved along Chile and Argentina. They then headed towards Rio de Janeiro in a non-stop sail that took them to South American shores for the very first time. The government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in late February allowed the Iranian warships to dock for a week despite pressure from the US to bar them.
The ships then were docked for five days in Cape Town in late March. They then headed towards Oman, where they stayed for several days earlier this month and before they their 232-day “360 roundtrip” earlier this week.
Iran has also seized two oil tankers in regional waters in the past month, which shows good power of control over the Persian Gulf security by Iran’s navy. While the US has called the seizures “unlawful”, Iranian officials have explained that one ship was stopped in compliance with a judicial order and the other for “fleeing” the region after hitting an Iranian vessel.