Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Iran's Asymmetric Naval Warfare Doctrine

In a 2006 research paper prepared for the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Jahangir Arasli addresses how Iran might apply its asymmetric naval warfare doctrine in a future conflict, in a piece titled Obsolete Weapons, Unconventional Tactics and Martyrdom Zeal. Excerpt provided below:

The asymmetric warfare (dubbed as ‘unbalanced warfare’ in Iranian discourse) is interpreted by [Iran's] strategists as a way to deter, deny, mitigate or negate the use of overwhelming military force even by a much more powerful foe (which in fact implies the USA). The essence of [asymmetric warfare] was worded in a simple and explicit way in August 2005 by the IRGC Brig. General Mohammad-Ali ‘Aziz” Jaafari: ‘As the likely enemy is far more advanced technologically than we are, we have been using what is called asymmetric warfare methods,... our forces are now well prepared for it’. Its principles and parameters in Iranian interpretation appear as follows.

In Peacetime:
- Deter military attack; contain any hostile behavior by all means available (hard power, soft power, deception).
- Maintain high combat readiness of its military forces, prepared for a continued, high-intensity stand against an enemy’s much more sizeable, hi-tech, military force.
- Develop and rely upon indigenous, [self-] sufficient defense industry capabilities (self-sustainment).
- Train to survive, prepare to react to—and under—a surprise attack, fast-changing situational developments, operational degradation, high pressure and partial loss of its own command and control (C2) capacities.

In Wartime:
- Decentralize military forces (‘dispersed warfare’) to mitigate enemy’s airpower, firepower, intelligence capabilities, battlefield informational dominance and control [of the] electro-magnetic spectrum.
- Incorporate unconventional tactics, assets and tools into all response scenarios.
- Act aggressively, be agile and innovative, and the use of the element of surprise as core elements of war on the strategic, operational and tactical levels.
- Intimidate enemy to accept (impose upon) [Iranian war-] scenarios.
- Concentrate decisive capabilities (i.e. make a ‘main effort’) when it is needed to address strategic weak points of the enemy (a center of gravity, or COG), which are not necessarily of a military nature, or directly linked to an attacking side (i.e. could be a third country).
- Conduct offensive retaliatory attacks against areas regarded by the enemy as safe and remote from the war zone (a sort of ‘pay a price’ deep strike).
- Use allied and proxy forces abroad to multiply harmful effect.
- Wage intensive political, information and psychological warfare, indivisible from the military efforts and targeting enemy’s moral and political will.
- Emphasize and exploit the human factor, primarily the religious zeal and martyrdom effort.

While the premise of Arsali's research paper can be challenged, that Iran is fully determined to achieve its final goal to get weapons of mass destruction, nonetheless the study does contain useful information on Iran's defense capabilities, particularly those of the Iranian Navy and IRGC Navy.

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