Iran-Sudan naval cooperation expands

Reuters

One of two Iranian navy warships arrives to dock at Port Sudan in the Red Sea state December 8, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • As the Iranian Navy has expanded its operational reach, Tehran has increasingly courted Khartoum.

    Tweet This

  • While Sudan has never been known for its navy, it has for a half century maintained a small force to patrol its Red Sea coast.

    Tweet This

  • Establishing a more permanent relationship with Sudan might allow Iran to utilize Port Sudan.

    Tweet This

In 2007 Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) ground forces underwent a massive reorganization. Rather than gear its forces toward external enemies, Mohammad Ali Jafari, the new IRGC commander, sought to have the IRGC ground forces orient themselves against internal challenges, and so put one unit in every province and two in Tehran. Both the Navy and the IRGC Navy therefore took the mantle of external operations, not only facing down enemies in the Persian Gulf but increasingly also in the Sea of Oman. As the Iranian Navy has expanded its operational reach, Tehran has increasingly courted Khartoum. In October 2012 the Iranian Navy’s 22nd fleet docked at Port Sudan on the Red Sea and, two months later, the 23rd Fleet followed suit. (Each Iranian fleet consisted of a destroyer and a helicopter carrier.) Establishing a more permanent relationship with Sudan might allow Iran to utilize Port Sudan—Sudan’s third largest city and largest port—which would enable Iran to expand its presence in the Red Sea and off the Horn of Africa.

While Sudanese officials warned against reading too much into last year’s port visits by Iranian ships, the excerpted comments from a 9 May meeting between the heads of the Iranian and Sudanese Navies suggest that the two countries’ bilateral military relationship continues to develop. While Sudan has never been known for its navy, it has for a half century maintained a small force to patrol its Red Sea coast. The Iranian willingness to train Sudanese naval forces raises questions of what capabilities Sudan seeks to acquire. Not only might this provide Tehran with needed hard currency should Khartoum purchase Iranian ships, but it might also enhance the Islamic Republic’s desire to export revolution by proxy. In the past the Islamic Republic has tried to leverage those whom it has trained—for example, Bahraini and Lebanese militiamen in the early 1980s—into revolutionary violence. Should such training occur—perhaps accompanied by an exchange of personnel—the Sudanese Navy might begin to replicate tactics used by Iranian small boats in the Persian Gulf in the Red Sea and near the Bab al-Mandab Strait. This would enable Iran to establish leverage over a second strategic maritime chokepoint and expand Tehran’s ability to threaten the international energy trade.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.