Iran's Provocative Naval Exercise: Motives and Implications

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Farzin Nadimi - On Feb. 25, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched a naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz by attacking a mockup of an American aircraft carrier. The Iranians have made no secret of their desire to be recognized as the "policeman of the Persian Gulf" since the 1970s. The IRGC had been itching for a chance to remind the West who is in charge in the Gulf. The drop in crude prices has halved Iran's oil exports compared to last year. Blowing up a mock ship can be seen as a move ordered by Supreme Leader Khamenei to stimulate markets and push the crude price up. Yet while such measures have triggered spot market price hikes in the past, the effects have been temporary. Khamenei may also have timed the exercise based on the status of the nuclear negotiations, which are approaching their final phase. Such actions show that Iran's dominant hardline elements still retain their win-lose mentality and revolutionary ideology, which is centered on defeating the "Great Satan" and convincing America's allies that Washington is incapable of ensuring their security. Photos and videos from the drill show that when the Khalij-e Fars "carrier-buster" ballistic missile was fired at the mock carrier, it failed to score a direct hit by as much as 50 meters. Several other rockets and anti-ship missiles also failed to score hits, and those that did still could not sink the vessel. IRGC naval commander Adm. Ali Fadavi had previously boasted that his forces could sink a U.S. carrier in less than fifty seconds. The regime has amassed what looks like a formidable arsenal of modern weapons suited to its asymmetric way of warfare, and it might be capable of severely disrupting - or temporarily blocking - navigation through the Strait of Hormuz. Yet doing so would risk a wider and longer confrontation with the U.S., as well as cutting off Iran's own much-needed access to oil markets. Thus while the Islamic Republic is increasingly confident of its ability to inflict a severe blow on the enemy, Western powers would likely be quick to dislocate a major part of Iran's conventional military and oil export infrastructures if the situation escalates into open conflict.

2015-03-05 00:00:00

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