Dubai: A top Iranian military official has stressed that his regime needs overseas naval bases including in Syria and Yemen in a statement that is likely to ratchet up tensions across the Gulf.
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hussain Baqari underlined the need to boost the Islamic Republic’s deterrent power by setting up overseas naval bases, saying that bases may be needed in the two Arab countries in the future, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
Iran’s navy should have a fleet in the Indian Ocean similar to the one stationed in the Sea of Oman, he said. “Maybe, at some point we will need bases on the shores of Yemen and Syria.”
He added that “having naval bases in remote distances is not less than nuclear power. It is ten times more important and creates deterrence”.
Gen. Baqari added that setting up naval platforms off the shores of those countries requires “infrastructures there first”.
Gulf states have long complained that Iran has ambitions to expand its power and influence beyond its borders, and have argued that a nuclear deal signed with world powers last year would embolden it to act on such threats.
Iran supports and is believed to fund religiously-oriented militias in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, through which is its alleged to expand its power into Arab countries.
On Saturday, Iraq’s parliament passed a highly controversial bill institutionalising Iran-backed Shiite militias accused of sectarian killings and of serving Iran’s interests in the war-torn country. The move was condemned by Sunni politicians as being part of a “dictatorship of the majority”.
Last year, Tehran MP Ali Reza Zakani, who is close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, boasted that Iran controls three Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, with Sana’a soon to follow.
Iran’s proxies are currently engaged in armed conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.