Back in April, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy made some remarkable claims. The most glaring, and most heavily reported by the fear-mongering sectors of the US media, was his claim that their ships “can move to within three miles of New York.” Realistically, it is more than a stretch to even consider this a threat. But it is possible. There are a few surprising ships in their fleet, if not necessarily surprising for their capabilities, but their origins.
And although it is frowned upon by the international community to threaten any nation with force, what if the Iranian Navy wanted to conduct “military exercises” off the US coast? It happens all the time, and while it clearly is a projection of power, government spokespersons instead refer to these provocative acts as “routine maneuvers” and wargames. Maybe Iran just wants to get into the game that developed nations regularly play.
Although about as credible as currently "laid off" Iraqi Information Minister
Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iran's Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi knows that
ridiculous claims make the world go round.
A Bathtub Navy
As it stands, the Iranian Navy is comprised of a disappointing flotilla of craft, with less than forty ships and boats that could even attempt to pose a threat in serious naval conflict. While nearly 300 craft round out their naval force, most of those are patrol boats for coastal and inshore defense. When it comes to projecting power, the Iranian Navy has a number of submarines (24 by current count), 3 corvettes (one of which is primarily a training ship), and 5 frigates. The best they can offer are the destroyers Damavand, Babr, and Palang, a Battle-class destroyer and two Allen M. Sumner-class ships.
Strange names? The IIS Damavand was formerly the HMS Sluys, and the IIS Babr and IIS Palang were previously known as the USS Zellars and USS Stormes, respectively. Still confused? Here’s a hint, the Islamic Republic of Iran didn’t steal these ships when no one was looking. They bought them.
Obviously, a “dangerous” nation like Iran is not going to be sold cutting edge technology. After all, “developed” nations could potentially find themselves at odds with the “radical” government found there. But there is money to be made in selling arms, even if the deal is struck with a power so clearly aligned against the sellers’ future objectives, unless those objectives revolve around profit.
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The IIS Sahand, a UK-built frigate and, thanks to the
US navy, a casualty of Operation Praying Mantis in 1988.
And why do the nations that struggle to feed their citizens need a warship? Because their neighbors just bought one. And while one ship is useless against the unstoppable might of the US Navy, that ship is all the difference when you’re opposed by your neighbor’s empty harbor. The message is clear: murder one another with the weapons we sell you, but turn those weapons on us and we will lay waste to your nation.
But This is What You Wanted
Of course, the worst case scenario for the “developed nations” involves a “dangerous” nation acquiring technology and weaponry too quickly. Affixing contemporary anti-ship missiles to an older class ship is nothing new. Although the US is happy to sell a ship to Iran, it has the good sense not to equip them with cutting edge missiles. The problem is that the US is not the only supplier of arms in the world, the US simply claims the largest portion of the pie. Anyone else who wants a piece of that pie needs to bring something dangerous to the table, a “must buy” item that is not on offer from other vendors.
The Iranian fleet has ships of Dutch, Russian, Chinese, and North Korean manufacture. They also regularly reverse engineer designs they purchases. If an American vessel came under attack, or was actually sunk, by a “surprise” anti-ship missile, of Chinese or Russian manufacture for example, the outcry would be deafening. “You’ve placed our citizens at risk! How dare you sell weapons to a foreign power?”
But every day, we turn a blind eye to the protestors in the streets of foreign countries demanding an answer to that very same question, pointed at our own governments. We believe we are not responsible for what the gun does once it leaves our factory. We claim we deliver our weapons to only “responsible” and “trusted” governments, our allies of the current decade. But once those allies are armed, we’re out of business. So we turn to the next unarmed potential ally, and warn them of the threatening purchases made by other nations in their region.
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This is what you wanted.