Thus, the United States would have to invade Iran from its southern coastline, which stretches roughly 800 miles and is divided between waterfront adjoining the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Iran has been preparing for just such a contingency for the better part of a quarter of a century. Specifically, it has focused on acquiring the capabilities to execute an antiaccess/area denial strategy against the United States, utilizing a vast number of precision-guided and nonsmart missiles, swarm boats, drones, submarines and mines.
As always, Iran benefits in any A2/AD campaign from the geography of the Iranian coastline; in The Revenge of Geography, Robert Kaplan observed of Iran’s coastline, “its bays, inlets, coves, and islands [make] excellent places for hiding suicide, tanker-ramming speed-boats.” He might have added hiding ground-launched missile systems.
Michael Connell, director of the Iranian Studies Program at CNA, further reflected: “Geography is a key element in Iranian naval planning. The Gulf’s confined space, which is less than 100 nautical miles wide in many places, limits the maneuverability of large surface assets, such as aircraft carriers. But it plays to the strengths of Iran’s naval forces, especially the IRGCN. The Gulf’s northern coast is dotted with rocky coves ideally suited for terrain masking and small boat operations. The Iranians have also fortified numerous islands in the Gulf that sit astride major shipping lanes.”