Iranian Warships off the US Coast?

File:Iranian Alvand class frigat.JPEGThe Iranians have announced that they intend to send a naval task force to provide a “powerful” presence off the US coast. Iranian military pronouncements frequently seem to be meaningless chest pounding for domestic consumption, and in all probability the task force will consist of only one warship smaller than a 270, and a replenishment vessel, but there may be more to this than simple theatrics. Informationdissemination suggests that this may be a way of cirumventing the UN sanctions on Iran and that perhaps this is a way to allow technology transfer. Likely port calls are Cuba and Venezuela.

At the risk of appearing paranoid, I’ll try to think like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp commander in charge of these vessels. I want to embarrass, degrade, and covertly attack the Great Satan in any way I can, as long as I don’t get caught. I might also have a opportunity to make a personal fortune. Might this be an opportunity to pass weapons, like shoulder launched SAMs, to terrorists already in the US by making rendezvous off shore, or to simply put agents ashore. It might be an opportunity make a substantial profit by delivering weapons to a drug cartel, maybe even a small submarine. There is of course the opportunity for technology transfers in both direction when port calls are made.

In November 2010 a German newspaper carried a story that the leaders of Iran and Venezuela had reached an agreement to establish a ballistic missile base in Venezuela armed with Iranian built IRBMs capable of reaching the US. This has been discounted by the State Department, but the logic of such an arrangement would have to be attractive to leaders of both Iran and Venezuela as a way of insuring against a US strike against either regime.

Should someone assign a shadow to these vessels while they are off the US coasts?

As informationdissemination notes, the Chinese are also expected in Caribbean Waters in the form of a hospital ship. If other, potentially hostile, navies start acting like the US Navy, keeping warships off our coasts, as they may in the not too distant future, how might the Coast Guard be different?

4 thoughts on “Iranian Warships off the US Coast?

  1. i would imagine that any iranian naval vessels near th u.s. coast would be shadowed by an american attack sub. i’m sure they must know this also. it would be arrogant or foolish for them not to. as long as they are in international waters and behaving themselves there is little more we could do. we are the ones who promote freedom of the seas in international waters. i don’t know what implications, if any, this would have for the coast guard.

    • They might do that, nothing like the prospect of being followed by a sub to get in your head and there is the ever popular gift of a photo of your ship in the cross hairs of a periscope, but there are reasons that might not happen. Since there are two ships they could split and with the submarine force already heavily tasked I doubt they would consider two subs. There is also no reason surveillance needs to be covert. A drone would come in handy for this, but the Navy’s BAMS system is not yet operational and we don’t really have anything like complete “Maritime Domain Awareness.”

      As for why this has implications for the Coast Guard, the crass answer would be that when CNN or Fox news does the story that the ships are off the US coast, it would be good if the film credit went to the CG. There is also the fact that a majority of the population, for some reason, thinks our job is to “guard the coast.” If the job does not get done, it is the CG they will look at first. Also if they do meet a boat off shore for the purposes of introducing an agent or a weapon into the US, it becomes a Homeland Security problem. No the Coast Guard would not necessarily maintain surveillance, but I would think we would want to make a conscious decision if it was desirable, and then we would want to know if it being done by anyone else.

  2. They are making the claim again,

    “Iran says it will counter US presence in its waters by sending ships to the international waters off the US coast, says Iranian Navy chief Admiral Sayyari.”

    They don’t seem to be in a hurry though,

    “No specifics were mentioned, but during an interview broadcast on state TV, Sayyari said the plans were aimed for “the next few years.””

    AP’s version of the story here:

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