Iran expands naval clout in Gulf: U.S. naval study

Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:35am EST
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By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran has restructured its naval forces to give an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard full responsibility for operations in the strategic Persian Gulf in the event of a conflict, according to a new U.S. intelligence study.

The concentration of fast attack boats and cruise missiles in and along the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, known as the IRGCN, "better allow Iranian naval assets to contribute to and extend Iran's layered defense strategy," the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence said in the study, dated Fall 2009.

The Revolutionary Guard has gradually expanded its naval capabilities over the years by incorporating Chinese, North Korean and Italian designs and technology, both military and commercial, and it now deploys some of the fastest naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the study said.

It said the Revolutionary Guard also reportedly wants to develop or acquire "unmanned" naval vessels.

As part of the reorganization, which began in 2007, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, or IRIN, has positioned its own naval assets further into the Gulf of Oman, according to the study, first disclosed by the Secrecy News Web site last week.

The assessment of Iran's newfound naval clout comes at a time of growing tension between the Islamic Republic and major powers over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Iran announced plans over the weekend to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants in a major expansion of its atomic program, just two days after the U.N. nuclear watchdog rebuked it for carrying out such work in secret.

The study by the Office of Naval Intelligence cited public statements by Iranian leaders indicating that they would "consider closing or controlling the Strait of Hormuz if provoked, thereby cutting off almost 30 percent of the world's oil supply."   Continued...