Iran has announced its intention to send a naval group to the Atlantic Ocean, after approving a $500 million military spending package. The approval of the spending was greeted with cries of “Death to America” by Iranian lawmakers.
Iran’s navy has been in a quest to achieve true “blue-water” status, with the ability to project power anywhere in the world. Indeed, this is a similar path that China has been on as well. Historically, navies have been an important arm of a country’s diplomacy, giving it the ability to exercise its will far from shore. Currently, Iran’s navy is considered to be “green-water;” that is, it can operate within Iran’s home region (this is a step up from many countries’ navies, however, which are “brown-water,” i.e. able to operate only along their inland rivers and close to shore).
The desire to operate in the Atlantic Ocean is a bid by Iran to increase its world power and influence events in the Western Hemisphere. Iran has already been active in Latin America for many years, working to achieve Iran’s economic, military, and propaganda goals in the region. A true blue-water navy will assist Iran in this effort.
It will also drive the Arab Gulf states to look for support in countering Iran’s regional and global ambitions. Currently, the region is eyeing both Russia and the United States to see who will step up to counter Iran. With Russia a defacto ally of Iran, this may serve to help the U.S. maintain influence over the Middle East. However, with recent missteps by the U.S., China is waiting in the wings to provide a viable alternative to either the U.S. or Russia as the region’s guardian.