by Nima Adelkhah, Terrorism Monitor, Vol. 8, Iss. 30, Jul 29, 2010 –
When the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on June 9 authorizing a fourth round of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran for its controversial nuclear program, the risk of conflict in the Persian Gulf also escalated considerably. One of the potential points of tension is the resolution’s explicit call for cargo inspection. Iran has warned vehemently against such a move. According to Brigadier Ali Fadavi, Iran’s military forces, especially the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), maintain a “special and suitable response to the inspection of Iranian vessels” (Fars News, June 14; Press TV, June 22, July 4). However, a major military move to challenge this particular regime of sanctions in the Persian Gulf would probably involve an attempt to close off the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway between Iran and Oman through which nearly 40% of crude oil supplies pass, including 88% of Saudi Arabian and 98% of Iraqi oil exports (Press TV, May 4; Fars News, June 13).
Since 2008, Tehran has warned bluntly of its potential to seal off the Strait of Hormuz, together with targeting U.S. shipping, to create turmoil in the oil market with a consequent major impact on the global economy (IRNA June 29, 2008; ISNA, July 8, 2008). As an Iranian analyst puts it, the Strait of Hormuz is the “hanging rope” of the American economy (Fars News, May 16). But to what extent is Iran militarily capable of bringing about these tactical objectives in response to a possible U.S. attack? Could Iran effectively close the Strait of Hormuz?. . . .
In terms of coastal defense, Iran has recently acquired a number of surface-launched fixed and mobile anti-ship missiles like the Ghased-1 and Nasr-1 (most likely bought from China) (Fars News, March 7; IRNA, May 21). In conventional military operations, these missiles could be used in addition to the anti-submarine torpedoes and Noor C-802 surface-to-surface missiles deployed on newly built frigates like the Jamaran (Press TV May 11).  Meanwhile, the presence of mines also poses a major threat to the U.S. navy, which is busy, along with British naval forces, in a constant minesweeping mission throughout the Gulf. The target of such coastal missile and mine operations would most likely include oil rigs, oil tankers, commercial ships (from Arab states in the Gulf) and other possible soft targets with the objective of disrupting shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
In terms of asymmetrical warfare, the IRGCN would lead the charge in operations in the Strait (see Terrorism Monitor, April 29). This aspect of Iranian naval warfare entails the highest risk for military conflict, since the IRGCN is typically undisciplined in its organizational and tactical operations. The unruly tactics of the Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz could increase the possibility of misinterpretation and miscalculation on both sides, as was the case with the near confrontation of Iranian fast boats and a flotilla of American naval forces in early 2008 (IRNA, January 8, 2008). In many ways, the 2008 introduction of 74 domestically built missile boats (based on the North Korean Peykaap ISP-16 model), effectively used in war exercises, indicates Iran is turning toward reliance on asymmetrical tactics (IRNA, February 22, 2008). These missile boats can be the deadliest form of naval warfare against U.S. forces, particularly if used in unconventional operations such as suicide attacks.
In spite of structural shortcomings and its role as the smallest branch of Iran’s armed forces, the Islamic Republic’s navy and particularly the IRGCN remain a substantial threat to U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf. With the new wave of sanctions and President Obama indicating that Iran may not be included in Washington’s new commitment not to attack non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons, the Islamic Republic is becoming considerably alarmed by the prospect of war (Press TV, June 22). . . .
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See also; IPS-16 Peykaap Class Coastal Patrol Craft – IPS-16 Modified Peykaap II Class Missile Boat, Global Security.org –
The IPS-16 is a monohull torpedo boat with a displacement of less than 15 tons. Its sole armament are 2 324mm torpedo tubes, stowed flush when not firing. This gives the boat a potentially low radar signature. The IPS-16 Peykaap class boats have a top speed of 52 knots.
Claimed as an indigenous design by the Iranian Maritime Industries Group (a division of the state run Defense Industries Organization), these boats are reportedly of North Korean origin, delivered in 2002. They may have been assembled or partially assembled in Iran. The MIG now offers the Peykaap class for sale itself, showing that it does have a production capability.
Between 2007 and 2008 a number of Peykaap torpedo boats were fitted with two launchers for the Iranian Kowsar anti-ship missile, an Iranian copy of the Chinese TL-10 missile. These boats have been referred to as IPS-16 Modified and Peykaap II.