Iran’s interest in acquiring naval bases in Yemen and Syria is dangerous. It is a gross expansion of Iran’s constitutional aim to export its revolution around the world, and it would be a significant strategic threat to the region. There would be no problem with Iran building a larger peaceful maritime presence outside its borders, but it is very wrong that it is seeking a great naval presence in the region. The Iranian official who floated this idea is right to say that naval power is 10 times more important than the nuclear deal, and that it creates deterrence.
The Arab region led by the Gulf states has been vocal in condemning Iran’s continued interference in Arab states. It funds and directs large Shiite militias in Iraq, it has been a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, and it is Hezbollah’s largest supporter. These are direct military interventions in Arab states, that are matched by its support for the Al Houthi in Yemen and Shiite groups in Bahrain.
With such a malevolent record, Iran should never be allowed to expand its naval presence in the region. Its ability to wreak mischief and destruction would be much expanded if Iran could add naval power to its gory repertoire. It could challenge shipping, enforce blockades and land troops wherever it wished. The Iranian support for Al Houthis in Yemen, or a future Iranian standoff with Turkey, would be incomparably more dangerous than its current military ability.
Quite apart from the obvious military and strategic reach that such naval bases would give Iran, it would also be a dangerous expansion of Iran’s ability to inhibit trade. Ninety per cent of the world’s trade is carried by sea and it is by far the most cost-effective way to move goods and raw materials around the world, according to the International Maritime Organisation.
Many will remember the running sore of the Tanker War throughout the 1980s with continual Iranian attacks on peaceful shipping in the Gulf.
The effect of a similar Iranian campaign on shipping in the Red Sea or the Mediterranean would be catastrophic. Imagine if the Iranian leadership found some perceived slight and suddenly decided to attack all shipping heading for Greece or Saudi Arabia, for example.
It is important that all parties realise the folly of entertaining anything to do with this Iranian idea, and condemn it utterly.