The announcement that Iranian warships are heading into the Atlantic and may sit off America’s coast is the stuff of headlines, but don’t say that Iranians haven’t long telegraphed their intention. I have been writing on Iranian naval statements and policy for the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth for several years. Here’s a brief timeline:
Three years ago, the Iranian Navy transited the Suez Canal for the first time since Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Shortly thereafter, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared the Iranian navy the new vanguard of Iranian power projection. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Navy commander Ali Fadavi picked up the theme. “The military power of the United States is maritime,” he explained. “Naturally, the main battlefield is the sea…and the Revolutionary Guards Navy will be the center of resisting and defending and safeguarding the Islamic Revolution.”
Just a year ago, Iranian authorities dispatched their fleet into the Pacific, the first time that happened since the 10th century. The Iranian Navy has also been striking partnerships with African countries, enabling the logistics to expand Iranian outreach. As for the goal of heading into the Atlantic? Halfway down this essay is a prediction from last April. The prediction wasn’t so farfetched, however, given that in 2011, the Iranian Naval Commander declared it his intention to deploy ships into the Atlantic. How fortunate it has been for the Iranian leadership that even as they have telegraphed their intentions, the White House was asleep at the switch.