Keeping America Safe

Five Reasons the Middle East is Becoming More Dangerous for the US Navy

battleship-missouri-pearl-harborfrom – AEI.org – by J. Matthew McInnis

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval ships’ frequent, aggressive behavior towards the US Navy has hit new levels in the past few months, triggering several risky encounters in the Persian Gulf, even prompting a terse exchange during the first presidential debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump over who would respond better to such provocations if they were in the White House.

Then US navy ships in the Red Sea were targeted on Oct 8 and 12 by missiles from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, a capability the group may have gained from their Iranian backers. Why have the waters in the Middle East become more dangerous recently? Here are five reasons, (hint: they all have to do with Iran):

  1. The IRGC wants everyone to know nothing changed after the nuclear deal. If there have been any consistent themes from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC since the implementation of the JCPOA in January, they are that Washington cannot be trusted, that the US Navy’s presence in the Gulf is unwanted and unnecessary, and that the Islamic Republic will not change its fundamental opposition to the United States. Iran has always justified aggressive actions towards foreign ships by asserting its rights to protect the Persian Gulf from hostile actors. We may see their behavior as unprofessional, but for the IRGC our presence is illegitimate and fundamentally not deserving of respect. The IRGC’s maritime outbursts will likely only become more dangerous as it strives to send a message abroad, and back home, that any greater economic openness to the world due to the JCPOA does not foreshadow any real political change from this regime.
  2. Iranian naval forces are making large strides in weapons and surveillance. The Iranian military has a long-term strategy of increasing the zone of risk for the US Navy and Air Force to operate near Iranian territory. This so called anti-access, area-denial (A2AD) approach is similar to those China and Russia have pursued in recent decades. The IRGC Navy is at the forefront of the effort, investing in increasingly accuratecruise missiles that can reach throughout most of the Gulf, increasingly sophisticatedmines, greater numbers of midget submarines, and even a new high speed helicopter-carrying catamaran. Long-range surveillance and targeting will also become more accurate as the Islamic Republic further deploys and improves its new over the horizon radar systems and reconnaissance drones. US naval assets can still operate effectively against Iran outside the Persian Gulf if needed, but the safe zone will continue to push deeper into the Indian Ocean.
  3. The Iranian military may be making a doctrinal shift to a more offensive posture. While the A2AD approach, like the large majority of the Islamic Republic’s military doctrines and strategies, is largely defensive, the Iranian leadership appears to be shifting toward a military posture that includes more offensive conventional capabilities. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei proclaimed Iran’s right to both offensive and defensive weapons in September 2016, a notable change in language since the 1979 revolution. Later that month, IRGC Navy Commander Ali Fadavi also touted his force’s new expansion into “offensive” capabilities. In the past, aggressive IRGC intercepts of US ships in the Persian Gulf have been motivated by Iran’s deterrent defensive doctrines. If Iran now envisions its posture in the region as having both “offensive” and “defensive” components, Washington should expect a whole new range of potentially escalatory behaviors from Iranian naval forces.  Additional coercive, rather than reactive, behaviors will be more difficult to predict and counter.
  4. IRGC proxies and partners are acquiring more powerful capabilities. Ever since Lebanese Hezbollah launched C-802 cruise missiles at the Israeli Navy in the Mediterranean during the 2006 war, the United States and its allies have worried the IRGC may transfer its growing anti-ship capabilities to its allies and proxies. Yemen’s al Houthis are not full proxies of Iran; most of their weapons and capabilities are commandeered from the remnant Yemen Army and their main ally, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Both Lebanese Hezbollah and the IRGC, though, have been training and attempting to supply the Houthis for some time.  If the missiles used in the October 8 and 12 attacks against USS Mason were not introduced by Iran, Hezbollah or the IRGC is at least likely helping with technical modifications or training. Despite major interdiction efforts by the United States, Israel, and Gulf Arab states, weapons and other lethal support are still getting through to the IRGC’s partners, raising the navigational risk around the region.
  5. The IRGC does not want to answer the phone. On 14 September, Fadavi claimed Iranian officials have refused to approve repeated US requests over the past three or four years to establish a direct line of communication with his forces. A military-to-military ‘hotline’ could de-escalate future at-sea crises in a matter of seconds or minutes, rather than the hours required by the new post-JCPOA channel between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Such an arrangement is unlikely to ever happen, though, and the problem is a political one on Tehran’s side. The US Navy has capacity for ship-to-ship contact with Iran’s regular Artesh Navy (and possibly even with the IRGC) to conduct counter-piracy and similar international missions, but those contacts are low-level enough not to worry the leadership in Tehran. An established conduit between IRGC Naval Headquarters and US Central Command in Tampa or US Fifth Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, however, will likely be seen as a potential backdoor for subversion, infiltration, or cyber-attack.  Crisis management can only be handled at the very top of this paranoid regime, which means every misunderstanding or dust up in the Gulf will take longer to diffuse than it should.

These trends are almost certain to continue.  The United States and our allies have long monitored the improvements in Iranian cruise missile accuracy, mines, submarines and surveillance capabilities.  While the United States is not yet in any risk of losing its maritime dominance in the region, ensuring freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea will require more thoughtful cooperation with our allies in other areas.

Together we will need to pursue increased steadfastness in face of provocation, further investment in counter-A2AD capabilities and operational concepts, more sophisticated crisis management thinking, and even greater efforts to disrupt IRGC weapons shipments to its partners and proxies. This depends, of course, if the next US president still wants to contest Iran’s assertion, that the United States has no business in the region’s waters.


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Darlene Ashley
6 years ago

I wanted to post this item to Facebook, but I chose not to because instead of a picture of a Navy destroyer, there was an advertisement for Long John Silvers.

Tom
6 years ago
Reply to  Darlene Ashley

Well, I guess that’s better than a picture of a battleship, Darlene.

RogerW
6 years ago

It is not surprising that Iran is becoming more aggressive at a time when the U.S. President is a traitor who has worked to weaken America, our military, and our Constitution. Obama (and the lying criminal Hillary Clinton) should be tried for treason, convicted, and executed for the damage they have inflicted on our once-great country. This veteran will volunteer to serve on the firing squads for both executions.

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  RogerW

Don’t forget me!I hereby volunteer also!

steven jacobs
6 years ago

1)we made our own problems by releasing the 150BILLION so Iran can develop its military muscle
2)What are we doing over there anyway-our forces have been completely ineffective-when our sailors were caught the navy did nothing to defend them-and the sailors stared crying-we are a joke. We should leave just to save face, as hollow as that would be

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  steven jacobs

They have probably been crying since Obammy stole the White House. WE didn’t release anything. Obammy, Hellary Clinturd, that fake SEAL and commie John Skerry and their ilk did. And if you voted for those circus freaks (which I suspect you did) then so did you.

steven jacobs
6 years ago
Reply to  Shadow64

If I have a problem with the Iran Treaty, and do not like they way this administration has decimated our military, why would you think that I would have been inclined to vote for any of those people in the first place?
Having said that, any GOP members I may have voted for to OPPOSE Obama betrayed me and rubber stamped his policies and executive orders-si I can’t really be happy with the choices I made there.

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  steven jacobs

Oh yeah, and by the way, it was the White House and State Department that did nothing. NOT the Navy.

steven jacobs
6 years ago
Reply to  Shadow64

That would have been Benghzi. In the Straits of Hormuz we had navy ships and JETS that could traverse the straight in less than a minute-and we did NOTHING but let some stupid little gunboat take our men-PATHETIC.

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  steven jacobs

It’s easy to sit there and be an armchair general/admiral, especially since you have the luxury of never having been there in the first place. I’d reserve judgement until you have the facts. You weren’t there, you know nothing. I was not there, I don’t know the facts. But being a veteran of that region, I know something about rules of engagement, which have a habit of constantly changing.

Alfred Somerville
6 years ago

We need a president with a backbone, not the jellyfish currently in the Oval office or his proxy Hillary, who has already proved she lacks the spine to deal with our enemies(Benghazi, anyone?). Of the candidates,, only Trump has the guts and the will to do what is necessary, which involves an active response to any hostile threat(simply put, if those camel drivers want a fight, we should give it to them-we still out-gun them in terms of weapons and the technology to back them up. Israel has shown us the way-any threat to our interests in the region should be met with force, which is the only language those scum understand. Obama and Kerry have tried to talk their way out of this mess-it’s time for a president who will respond with any force necessary to convince our enemies of our will to defend our strategic interests anywhere they are threatened, with all the power at our command.

O. Ryan Faust
6 years ago

With a fifth column now being imported into the US by Obama and 10 times more under HiLIARy, we won’t enjoy the same situation we did in WW2. The enemy will be able to bring the fight into our suburbs and cities, attacking farmers in the fields, poisoning our water sources, taking out power stations and destroying bridges and railways here on our own soil.

If they’re able to take away our guns before the hostilities get underway, we’ll be targeted with impunity by roving bands of armed “refugees” aligned with Iran. The battle field will be anywhere and everywhere we live.

Still want to vote for another 4 years of Obama policies?

PaulE
6 years ago

Lets just cut to the chase here. The reason the Iranians and our other enemies around the world feel free to threaten U.S. Navy vessels is because Obama has made it very clear that he will not engage militarily anywhere in the world. At least not with a degree of force that would send a crystal clear message to any aggressor that we will not tolerate any form of hostile action against our people. Hillary has promised to continue the same exact policy should she win in November.

The recent rocket attacks against one of our naval ships should have been met by the that ship firing back, within minutes of getting the OK from naval command, at the originating point of those two rockets. That would have sent a very clear message that it is NOT open season on any Navy vessel sailing in the area. Our military forces have been essentially told to stand down even in the face of a clear and present danger. Left with only defensive systems to stop any incoming threat. Why should any of our enemies abide by any agreements or treaties, if they know we will not defend ourselves in order to preserve the pathetic legacy of the Obama presidency.

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

There should be NO OK!!!! Hammer them! Navy roe should dictate that if you are fired upon, you destroy who did it. Period. You don’t GET minutes in combat.

Tom
6 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

I agree that the response should have been immediate. However, these destroyers are very capable of defending themselves, and their response was appropriate and equal, except for the accuracy.

AD Roberts
6 years ago

Most certainly this is exactly the same as dealing with Hitler in the 30’s. And the ONLY action that finally stops the aggression of evil, wicked governments is all out attacks designed to STUFF THEM into boxes of final disposal. These are not rational men. They do not have a civilized bone in their bodies They cannot be trusted for anything they say since they own TAQIYYA AND MURUNA.
One thing to do. Each and every time they attack or even feign an attack, strike out at them with an all out effort to destroy them.
They are NOT civilized. Don’t treat them as such.

Tom
6 years ago

I wonder what this has to do with a 72 year old battleship that has been decommissioned for a couple of decades and is parked in Pearl Harbor on the opposite side of the globe from Iran. Is this the only U.S. Navy file photo you characters have? I can send you a picture of an Arliegh Burke destroyer if you need one.

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I’d LOVE to see the Mighty Mo back in service! what a GORGEOUS big ole gal!

eagle-eye
6 years ago

Obama has embolden the rag heads by paying them back their own money with interest last January…which caused the rag heads to lose their fear of the American military and authority in the region.

Chuck
6 years ago
Reply to  eagle-eye

Ah yes, the Proud Legacy of Clintoon, obama, and horse face the medal-tosser…

Steve
6 years ago

The “experts” will have an appropriate response AFTER the damage has been done . As in the case of general nut in North Korea threatening the region and the world with nuclear strikes any guess as to whom let this nut loose?? So anyone with common sense knows Iran will follow suit in their region , as is happening right before everyone’s eyes now . Anyone want to take a wild guess as to who is responsible for this mess?? I guess the American people want the good old days of Billy back where our American troops where put at great risk . Hollywood loved it and quickly made profitable movies off the stupidity. Protect our troops and when fired upon respond in kind and let the evil know there will always be a price to pay .

AD Roberts
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Democrats who simply do not have the guts to take a stand.
Jimmy Carter
Bill Clinton (he never did find justice for the terror attacks against us, even though he promised. LOL
Obama. Who sells munitions to our very worse enemies and won’t allow our people to defend our own embassy.

Anyone want to bet that Hillary would SURRENDER at the first chance?

Maria
6 years ago
Reply to  AD Roberts

What can we expect from spineless idiots and a gay person who only wants to spend time on the golf course…I wonder if he has become a good golfer!!!! Another one, who was busy chasing skirts in and around Washington, and the other just ineffective, period!!!What sorry excuses for presidents we’ve put out to lead our country!!!! Folks, we have ourselves to blame for the kind of “men” we voted into the office of POTUS!!!!

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  Maria

Sadly Maria, this is true………..

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  AD Roberts

Hellary will come in full speed sliding on her knees to home plate and break out the Chapstick……

Mike
6 years ago

I wonder who Obama and Hillary will blame when Iran hits the U.S. with a nuclear bomb.

Toprudder
6 years ago
Reply to  Mike

George W. Bush, of course, just like Obama blamed him for everything else.

Maria
6 years ago
Reply to  Toprudder

Yeah, right!!! Obama, who said on the first campaign trail, “that the buck stops with him” and he’ll “have the most transparency in his administration.” All talk so he would get elected. He is so spineless and ineffective and always putting blame on someone or something else so that he wouldn’t be held accountable for anything nor take any responsibility. But don’t worry, with his ” rules of no engagement” in this war on terrorism, if something big does happen to the US, HE will surely get the blame for it and he will deserve it outright!!!! He must remember too, that whatever he does in office can be held against him even after his term is over, and I hope that happens!!!!

JoJo
6 years ago
Reply to  Maria

Obama and Clinton will blame the American people for our stupidity in not following their agenda. ALL AMERICANS no matter who or what we are about are being used and abused by their tactics to gain control of the world. We are just a grain of sand to be kicked around. When they do it many more will follow then they have gained their partnership. Is this really what ALL AMERICANS want? We have the hugest decision to make in a matter of days. Trump is the answer now.

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  JoJo

Yes he is! TRUMP!!!!!

Shadow64
6 years ago
Reply to  Maria

Absolutely!

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