Iran’s terror navy

posted at 1:30 pm on March 27, 2007 by Bryan

Today must be the day to get email from troops. Keep ’em coming–a few words from the front lines or from troops familiar with workings on the front lines carries much more weight with me than anything emanating from the AP and other MSM outlets.

This email comes from a USN Lt who has served in the Gulf and has seen Iranian tactics and actions up close. He served aboard the USS Underwood, which patrols the North Arabian Gulf along with the HMS Cornwall. That’s the ship that the captured British sailors and Marines belong to. I think the Lt provides some useful backstory on the Iranian seizure of those 15 British troops.

I don’t think it was widely reported, but the last time The ‘Wood was in the NAG (North Arabian Gulf) (from roughly Oct ’04 until Jan ’05) the Brits had a standoff with the Iranians. It was early December ’04 if i remember correctly when for a reason we could never ascertain, something like 5 or 6 merchant vessels ran aground trying to enter the Shat’ al Arab, which is roughly the dividing line between Iranian and Iraqi waters (depending upon who you ask, as you might imagine). A British Boarding Team boarded one of the aground vessels to try to figure out why so many vessels ran aground at the same time. While in the merchant vessel, small boats from the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) surrounded the vessel and the British small boat standing by. The picture I believe is classified, but you can imagine the reaction of the guys in the RHIB when there were two IRGCN RHIBs within 20 feet, pointing AK-47’s and an RPG at them. Needless to say the RHIB backed off and returned to the ship. The Boarding Team hunkered down and the diplomacy started. It ended with the Boarding Team getting lifted off the merchant via helicopter, a needlessly dangerous operation, because the Iranians gave them permission to do so by air but only until sunset. After that all bets would be off.

The reason the IRGCN claimed they had the right to act? The Brits had “entered Iranian Territorial Waters.” The line that separates the territories there is under about as much disagreement as the border between Pakistan and India.

The IRGCN is extremely active in this area as well. The Iranian Navy (IRN) is very professional and works with us in a polite if cold manner. The IRGCN are erratic and seemingly looking for a fight. They are a little strange in the operational tactics as well. For instance, they set-up a little base on the top of a sunken crane. The crane part was sticking up probably 50-100 feet (I don’t know for sure, we never got within a mile of it) and they would keep it manned at all times, and their little small boat terror crews would overnight there by tying up to the crane and climbing up to their little shack they had built. I also DO mean TERROR CREWS because nightly we would hear fishermen begging for help over the civilian radio as they were attacked in what can only be viewed as state sponsored piracy, usually in Iraqi waters. Lots of stuff from that time still piss me off.

Another key note in all of this. The reason we are up there, so close to the line, is to train the Iraqi Navy, and to protect the Al Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT) and the Khwar al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT). These two terminals (KAAOT is likely still inoperable) represent the only effective means of exporting Iraqi oil, as they have no deep water ports for the super tankers. Our estimates were 60-70% of the Iraqi economy balanced on the availability of these terminals.

Iran is likely to respond to any attack on its nuclear facilities, or any attempt to free the 15 British hostages, with strikes on the ABOT as well as proxy attacks inside Iraq. Lebanon might flare up again with Iranian support. I’m sure our planners are factoring that into their thinking, but it’s probably a good idea if the rest of us do too.

But with all of the danger to coalition forces in the area that the Lt describes, why are the UK’s rules of engagement there so weak?

Clarification: I’ve gotten a few emails expressing concern for the usage of “North Arabian Gulf” instead of the more common “Persian Gulf” in this post. The emailer used “Arabian,” so I also used it for the sake of consistency.

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Iran is likely to respond to any attack on its nuclear facilities, or any attempt to free the 15 British hostages, with strikes on the ABOT as well as proxy attacks inside Iraq. Lebanon might flare up again with Iranian support.

Not to mention NYC, Washington, etc., etc..

JackStraw on March 27, 2007 at 1:44 PM

Fascinating. This is really enlightening.

see-dubya on March 27, 2007 at 1:50 PM

time to break out the destroyer screen and the FA 18s, wonder how well they can target dinghies

Defector01 on March 27, 2007 at 1:51 PM

Bush should station a Carrier group just inside Iraqi waters along the Iranian boarder. I bet the Iranian incursions into Iraqi waters would end immediately. Bush needs to stand up to the maniacs running Iran and say “Enough is enough!. Enter these waters at your own risk!”

RedinBlueCounty on March 27, 2007 at 2:16 PM

The LT’s experience is similar to mine when I was in the Gulf in the 1990’s. At that time, Iran was running smuggling operations out of their northern ports near the Iraqi border and offering oil smugglers safe passage through Iranian waters in exchange for a cut or for a bribe. The IRGC was making some serious bank off these operations.

Now that oil-for-food is gone and oil smuggling is a thing of the past, it looks like the IRGC has turned to more traditional methods like piracy and extortion.

The sunken crane the LT mentions actually straddles the boundary that we recognized between Iraq and Iranian waters and the IRGC has used it for some time.

It is important to note that the delineation of the border between Iraq and Iran is something neither country has agreed on for many years, so the border is in legitimate dispute. Unfortunately, a resolution is not likely since small adjustments in the border have a bid effect on the economic exclusion zone for each country which would affect exploitation rights for the significant undersea petroleum deposits in the northern Gulf.

NPP on March 27, 2007 at 2:18 PM

A-10s would likely be more effective…. can you land them on carriers?

Canadian Imperialist Running Dog on March 27, 2007 at 2:18 PM

Remove the incentives for the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) to do business (extortion/piracy) and they should pack up and leave. It may take the removal of the refinement capacity of the area of operations or that of the entire country of iran, but would be worth the cost of several smart bombs or a cruise missle. With no downside (invasion), the [email protected] can squeal till the cows come home or the next election restores the conservatives to power (Thompson/Pence’08).

tormod on March 27, 2007 at 2:34 PM

Iran is begging for a rematch, it seems.

Kai on March 27, 2007 at 2:50 PM

What?! We accidently dropped a Hellfire onto a broken down crane?! How could this happen?! Oh…sorry…dreaming again.

Limerick on March 27, 2007 at 3:04 PM

CanRunDog, as awesome as the A-10 is, it’s an Air Force jet that doesn’t land on Navy carriers. Probably COULD, if retrofitted with a landing hook and a little cross training with our Navy buds. Taking OFF of a carrier would be a lot more dangerous for a Warthog. But I’m sure those guys would just LOVE to strafe a few Iranian boats with that 30 mm! I know a few ex-A10 pilots at my airline and they love to talk about strafing with da BIG gun.

Tony737 on March 27, 2007 at 4:44 PM

In my personal opinion, the first thing that needs to happen right now is that European oil companies such as Total and Royal Dutch Shell (parent company of US Shell) need to come out of Iran right now. Not next week, not next month, but right now … today.

crosspatch on March 27, 2007 at 5:24 PM

Dear Rosie:
Operation Praying Mantis.
Google it.
/hat tip: Kai

stevezilla on March 27, 2007 at 5:57 PM

When I was on a carrier (U.S.S. Carl Vinson CVN-70) in the Gulf back in 1996, we were at the time enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq. Our battle groups even fired a few cruise missiles into Iraq but it was generally accepted that the battle damage drills we practiced were from Iranian anti-ship missiles.

Keep in mind that a carrier is a big target (even with the screening Aegis ships) and the Persian Gulf is actually quite small thus not only limiting room to maneuver but even reducing reaction time to defend against incoming threats. I have little doubt our fleet can protect itself but I also encourage everyone to remember the U.S.S. Stark. It only takes one or two to get through and really ruin your day.

Yakko77 on March 27, 2007 at 6:23 PM

Perhaps we can retrieve the British sailor if we offer them Rosie in exchange… after all they are mad mullahs…they must might go for it.

auzerais on March 27, 2007 at 7:30 PM

An outbreak of hostilities with the IRGCN would be very violent…. for a few hours or so. Keep in mind there is now a Navy Admiral in charge at Central Command, William J. Fallon. And war gaming is now a fine art 100+ years on; the Navy and Air Force (B-2’s, B-1B’s, Strike Eagles etc.)are reasonably prepared and I believe we have the advantage.

Zorro on March 27, 2007 at 7:49 PM