Saturday, February 28, 2015

Iranian Baluch Insurgent Leader Arrested in Pakistan

Jaish ul-Adl leader Salam Rigi was arrested in Pakistan while traveling by Bus in the country’s southwest. Salam led the Iranian-Baluch Sunni militant organization Jaish ul-Adl (Army of Justice), which has conducted a number of terrorist attacks against Iranian security forces in the Iranian Baluchistan in the past two years, including kidnapping of 5 border guards and killing of one of them last year. Jaish ul-Adl is the successor to Jundallah. Salam Rigi’s cousin, Abdolrahman Rigi, headed that organization before he was kidnapped by Iranian security forces and brought to Iran and hanged in 2010.  

File photo: Iranian border guards kidnapped by Jaish ul-Adl, February 2014. (

Iran Navy '33rd Fleet' at Jakarta, Indonesia

Iran media imagery from 27FEB15 of Islamic Republic of Iran Navy "33rd Fleet" at Jakarta, Indonesia

IRINS Shahid Admiral Naghdi (82) Bayandor class (PF 103 type) corvette (FS), entering Tanjung Priok Port, a sub-district of North Jakarta, Jakarta, Indonesia. Note busy port activity in background.

IRINS Shahid Admiral Naghdi (82) docked at Tanjung Priok Port. It is being reported that this represents the first visit to Jakarta by an Iranian fleet in 25 years.

IRINS Bandar Abbas (421) Bandar Abbas class light replenishment ship (AORLH), with crew including naval officer students the Iman Khomeini University for Naval Science.

IRIN Captain Mohammad Reza Ahmadi Kermanshahi, commander of the 33rd Fleet, disembarking from IRINS Bandar Abbas. Note IRIN slogan: "Power for deterrent."

IRI Marine chief petty officer equipped with UZI 9mm submachine gun (SMG)

IRIN 33rd Fleet received by TNI–AL (Indonesian Navy) military band, and members of the Iranian embassy in Indonesia

Group photo of IRIN 33rd Fleet officers, Iranian embassy staff members and TNI–AL (Indonesian Navy) officers

Gift exchanged between IRIN Captain Mohammad Reza Ahmadi Kermanshahi and a TNI-AL captain staff officer

TNI-AL captain staff officer amongst a group of Artesh officers

Seen at Tanjung Priok Port: KRI Cut Nyak Dien (375) Kapitan Patimura class corvette (FS). Note: this is ex-Lutz (221) ex-Parchim class corvette of the former Volksmarine (GDR Navy).

Behind it appears to be KRI Dewa Kemba (932) Hecla class survey vessel (AGSH). Note: this is ex-HMS Hydra (A144) of the Royal Navy, with a service record that includes the Falklands War.

See also: Iran Navy '33rd Fleet' at Colombo, Sri Lanka [click HERE]

Photos: Mahdi Marizad at Fars News Agency

U.S. “Bottom Lines” for Nuclear Deal with Iran - Report

The United States set out its “bottom lines” to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, ahead of new talks next week, AFP reported today.

“We will only accept an agreement that cuts off the different pathways to the fissile material that Iran needs for a nuclear weapon,” a senior U.S. administration official said. (AFP, 28 February)

The U.S. official spelled out where Washington was standing firm:
  • Iran should not be allowed to develop weapons-grade plutonium at its Arak reactor. “We’re discussing how Iran can convert that Arak reactor to serve a different purpose,” the official said.
  • Iran should not use its Fordo nuclear plant to enrich uranium.
  • That would leave only Natanz plant capable of enriching uranium.
  • Any deal must ensure that it would take Iran a year to gather enough fissile material to make a bomb.
  • Iran should “reduce significantly” its current number of operating centrifuges and its domestic stockpile.
  • Iran must agree to unprecedented inspections of both nuclear and production facilities as well as uranium mines and mills, and suspect sites.
  • The U.S. is pursuing a deal in which relief from international sanctions “is phased in over a period of time.”
“We are insisting on the principle that sanctions can snap back into place if Iran were to violate the agreement,” the official said.

Friday, February 27, 2015

IRGC-N underwater test-firing of a cruise missile

Above: video still of IRGC-N underwater test firing of a cruise missile

The IRGC-N announced on 27FEB15 it had test-fired a "new strategic weapon" in the final day of the Great Prophet 9 exercise.

Iran media video depicted the test-firing of submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM), or perhaps a submerged launch system intended for development towards a missile-launch capable submarine. The cruise missile appears to be equipped with a booster.

Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of IRGC-N, said the new weapon would be critical in any future naval war against the U.S.

"The new weapon will have a very decisive role in adding our naval power in confronting threats," he was quoted as stating in Sepah News.

No further details on the launch or specifications for the cruise missile type were released.


Great Prophet 9 exercise, phase two

Iran media imagery from phase two of Great Prophet 9 exercise:

IRGC-GF tactical unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) equipped with PKM type 7.62mm machine gun, advanced optics and thermal camera, with claimed effective operational range of 5-7 km.

IRGC-GF battlefield surveillance and management unmanned ground vehicle

IRGC-GF ARIO-H762 Intelligent Surveillance & Remotely Controlled Weapon System positions

Detail of IRGC-GF ARIO-H762

IRGC-GF Asefah 23 mm, 3-barrel Gatling-type rotary cannon CIWS

IRGC-GF marksman in ghillie suit, armed with Steyr HS.50 type anti-material rifle

IRGC-GF rifleman equipped with updated DIO S-5.56 assault rifle

IRGC-GF SPG-9 entrenched, fortified "pop-up" position, possibly related to Iranian "multi-cellular wall" fortification system publicized during Great Prophet 9 exercise

Detail of IRGC-GF SPG-9 "pop-up" position, emerging from concealment

IRGC-GF ZU-23-2 23 mm anti- aircraft twin-barreled autocannon position, possibly related "multi-cellular wall" fortification system.

Detail of entrenched, fortified IRGC-GF ZU-23-2 "pop-up" position

Detonation of Khaybar explosive, a newly developed type publicized during Great Prophet 9 exercise

Seldom seen IRIAF McDonnell Douglas RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft of 31st TRS (possibly from phase one)

IRGC-ASF Shahed 129 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV)

IRGC-N Aviation Mil Mi-171 transport helicopters (possibly from phase one)

Launch of Khalij Fars ("Persian Gulf") anti-ship ballistic missile (possibly from phase one)

IRGC-N coastal AShM mobile launcher and command vehicles (possibly from phase one)


Mohsen Norouzifard at Islamic Consultative News Agency
Hossein Zohrevand at Tasnim News Agency
Islamic Republic News Agency
Hamed Jafarnejad at Fars News Agency

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Could Iran really sink an aircraft carrier?

Abraham Lincoln carrier battle group.
Iran recently built a mock-up prop depicting a United States Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Then, as part of a much flaunted military exercise, used “swarming” tactics consisting of small speedboats, helicopters and anti-ship missile fired from Iran's coast in order to practice interdicting and attacking it. The whole exercise had a clear political dimension to it, Tehran wants to project an image of its asymmetrical abilities which enable it to, if necessary, sink one of America's capital vessels if it were directly threatened or attacked.

Plenty of articles have been written, and will be written, addressing both the military and political implications of this exercise. Can Iran really sink an aircraft carrier? Is the timing of this exercise – which after all comes amid more collapsing nuclear negotiations and as Iran's continued, and ever more conspicuous, involvement in the conflict in Syria grows increasingly more costly – Tehran's way of reminding the U.S. that it will make any attack as costly as possible?

I suspect that is the case. But the much more interesting question is whether or not Iran could do it. We've all heard the rhetoric time and again over the years concerning how the regime has threatened to retaliate if its nuclear program is targeted by either the Americans or the Israelis, or both. But this particular exercise does serve as an apt reminder of how finely tuned the relatively unique, and doubtlessly formidable, the defense mechanisms of Iran are.

A controversial 2002 war games simulation, Millennium Challenge, arrived somewhat controversial conclusions. Iran's asymmetrical abilities, the American simulation estimated, could well take out not just a lone carrier but an entire battle group if it were operating within the gulf or near Iran's coastal waters. The blow was so severe that the simulation was overhauled to ensure a U.S. victory – which sounds like a  ludicrous move since, after all, in the real world one cannot hit the reset button like a video game when it's not going the way one would like it to. 

Unlike in the late 1980's when the U.S. Navy responded to Iran's mining of the Persian Gulf, during the so-called Tanker War phase of the Iran Iraq War, by attacking its British-made naval frigates (and in the process sinking the Sahand and crippling the Sabalan, which it let limp away) Iran's posture today focuses more on a complex network of much smaller crafts using asymmetrical tactics as part of a broader defensive infrastructure. And a networked defensive posture which is relatively decentralized and consists of units which can operate independently if circumstances necessitate it from along Iran's massive coast could indeed make any American attempts to operate in that area a costly nightmare, especially if they are relying on relatively conventional tactics against a largely unconventional adversary. An adversary which, operating from its own territory, would likely be, as was said of the Viet Cong, everywhere and at the same time nowhere.

Any potential U.S. effort to hamper Iran's ability to attack from its own coast would have to be very sizeable and would doubtlessly incur considerable civilian casualties in Iran itself. Such a scenario is highly likely in the case of a protracted war against Iran and the U.S. in the region. Especially if such an escalation is sparked off by a U.S. and/or Israeli strike targeting Iranian nuclear facilities. If ensuing exchanges of fire became prolonged and intensified, to the point of a de-facto war, Iranians would likely rally behind the regime, regardless of whether or not they agree with it or its policies. Another sombre reminder of what could possibly be at stake in the not too distant future.

IRGC-N simulated attacks on mock USN aircraft carrier target ship

Iran media imagery of IRGC-N attacks upon mock USN Nimitz-class aircraft carrier target ship, on 25FEB15 during Great Prophet 9 exercise.

Simulated attack on mock USN Nimitz-class aircraft carrier target ship, more aptly characterized as an IRGC-N conducted, live-fire dramatization. Intent includes training, and demonstration contributing towards current naval debates over the vulnerability and speculated obsolescence of large aircraft carriers.

Mock USN Nimitz-class aircraft carrier target vessel was reportedly struck by coastal ASBMs, ALCMs fired from rotory-wing aircraft, and rockets fired from MLRS in a swarm attack by inshore patrol force craft.

Swarm of IRGC-N FB-type RIB-33 inshore patrol craft

Aftermath of staged attacks by IRGC-N missile, aviation and naval forces on mock USN Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Target vessel appears stationary during simulation. Construction suggests intent as a rebuildable, reusable target vessel.

IRGC-N Aviation Mil Mi-171Sh, serial SN-2103 inserting IRGC-N Special Forces atop target vessel

IRGC-N Aviation Mil Mi-171Sh, serial SN-2103 simulating naval boarding atop damaged target vessel

Visible on target ship's deck are F/A-18 Hornet props 

IRGC-N Special Forces employing boarding ladder from target vessel to inshore patrol craft

IRGC-N FB-type RIB-33 inshore patrol craft armed with 1 x 11 barrel 107mm MLRS

IRGC-N Ashoora class minelayer, inshore patrol craft

IRGC-N inshore patrol force participating in Great Prophet 9 naval exercise

Aerial view of IRGC-N inshore patrol force participating in Great Prophet 9 naval exercise

IRGC-N Special Forces members participating in in Great Prophet 9 naval exercise


Photos: Hossein Zohrevand at Tasnim News Agency, and Hamed Jafarnejad at Fars News Agency

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

IRGC Navy Starts Persian Gulf Wargames

Anti-Ship Missiles Hit Mockup of U.S. Aircraft Carrier
The IRGC navy (IRGCN) today began its “Payambar-e Azam 9” (Great Prophet 9) wargames in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Fars News Agency reported.

During the exercises today, anti-ship ballistic missiles fired from the coast and anti-ship cruise missiles fired by navy helicopters hit a carrier mockup, modeled after a U.S. NIMITZ class aircraft carrier. This is the first time that the IRGCN has incorporated a carrier mockup in its wargames. In a video released by Fars News Agency, IRGCN fast attack boats are shown training swarm attack and firing rockets at the mockup carrier, with helicopters overhead firing Nasr anti-ship cruise missiles at their target.

IRGCN also reported that several vessels today drilled high-speed mine-laying operations in the Strait of Hormuz.

“We have the most advanced sea mines which cannot be imagined by the Americans,” said IRGCN Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. (Fars News Agency, 25 February)

IRGCN also fired a number of anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Strait of Hormuz during today’s drills.

Photo: Screen capture of IRGCN video showing missile attacks on a carrier mockup; the Persian Gulf, 25 February 2015 (Fars News Agency/eaworldview)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Growing Influence of Iran-led Shia Militias in Iraq

Reuters today has filed a report from Baghdad on the growing influence of Iran-led Shia militias in Iraq. The report is based on interviews with majors actors within the militia community. Some of the main findings:
  • As Baghdad struggles to fight ISIL, many Shia Iraqis now look to Iran as their main ally. The Shias trust the powerful Iran-backed militias that have taken charge since army deserted en masse last June.
  • Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of Badr Organization, arguably the most powerful Shia paramilitary group in the country, considers Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei not just as the Iranian head of state, but the leader of the “Islamic nation.” Amiri says, “Khamenei would place the interests of the Iraqi people above all else.”
  • Hashid Shabbi, or Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC), is a secretive entity under nominal government control that serves as an umbrella organization for several dozens militia factions in the country.
  • PMC is run by Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, better known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a former Badr commander, and the right-hand man of Gen. Qasem Soleimeni, commander of the Quds Force. Muhandis is praised as militia fighters as “the commander of all troops.”
  • Soleimani, Amiri and Muhandis are seen as the leaders of the militia.
  • Iranian military advisers in Iraq have helped with everything from tactics to providing paramilitary groups with drones and signal capabilities, including electronic surveillance and radio communication. Iran has dispatched artillery units to Iraq to fight ISIL. The Iranian troops are the ones who launch rockets and artillery.    
File photo: Iran's Quds Force Commander general Qasem Soleimani (r.) with Badr proganization leader Hadi al-Amiri, celebrating victory in a battle against ISIL by Iran-led Shia militias. November 2014 (Twitter/eaworldview)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Progress Reported at Nuclear Talks

Iranian and U.S. officials at nuclear talks in Geneva reported some progress but said a lot of work remained to secure a deal before the 31 March deadline.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Monday at the conclusion of two-days talks that they were ‘useful, constructive, and serious” but there is still a “long way” to go. (RFU/RL, 23 February)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying “some progress” has been made. The two sides has been able to “sharpen up some of the tough issues,” the official added.

The talks will be resumed on 2 March in Geneva.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Iran-U.S. Talks in Geneva

U.S. secretaries of state and energy, John Kerry and Ernest Moniz, met on Sunday in Geneva with Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salahi. Further talks will be held on Monday. The negotiators are attempting to strike a deal before their 31 March deadline. There were no reports of progress, or lack of, in today’s talks.

Photo credit, from left: Ali Akbar Salehi, AEOI director; Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif; Secretary of State John Kerry; Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Geneva, 22 February 2014 (Twitter/@Hassanvans)

Bombs Exploded at Residence of Iran Ambassador in Libya

ISIL Takes Responsibility
Tow bombs exploded at the gate of the Iranian ambassador’s residence in the central district of the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Sunday. The residence was empty at the time. Other foreign missions in Tripoli, including embassies of Egypt and the UAE, have been targets of bombings recently.

The government in Tripoli is not recognized by the UN and Western powers. Libya’s internationally recognized government and the elected House of Representatives has been forced to work out of the east since a group called Libya Dawn took control of the capital and installed a rival administration. Most countries moved out their staff from Tripoli last year during fighting between rival factions.

UPDATE: Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State has taken responsibility for the bombings at the Iranian ambassador's residence in Tripoli, Reuters reported.

File photo: Residence of Iranian ambassador to Libya damaged in the twin bombings on Sunday (Reuters)

Turkish Military Enters Syria to Evacuate Soldiers, Move Remains at Suleyman’s Tomb

600 Turkish troops and about 100 tanks and armored vehicles supported by jets overhead entered Syria to evacuate soldiers guarding the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and move the tomb’s remains. The tomb, considered Turkish territory, has been besieged by Islamic State insurgents. The military operation started on Saturday and continued through Sunday. (Twitter & New York Times, 22 February)

The Turkish task force entered Syria through Kobane, the Kurdish town that was liberated recently after Kurdish forces launched an epic fight against ISIL who had occupied most of the town. On Sunday morning local time, the Saygi Station, which houses the tomb, was under control of Turkish armed forces. Prime Minister Davutoglu posted to Twitter this morning that all the tomb’s valuables, including historical remains, were delivered back to Turkey.

File photo: The Tomb of Suleyman Shah in 2011. (AP/NYYimes)  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Houthi security at Yemeni Air Force base in Sana’a

Above: recent photo of a Yemeni Air Force Mikoyan MiG-29 multirole fighter of 9th Squadron, following a reported runway overshoot at Sana'a International Airport (OYSN) due to drag chute failure.

Perhaps the more interesting detail is this photograph's evidence of pro-Iran Houthi militamen seen performing security duties at the Yemeni Air Force base section of Sana'a International Airport.

Both the Yemeni Air Force and Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force operate Mikoyan MiG-29 multirole fighter aircraft.

On a somewhat related note, during the past week this photo emerged of pro-Iran Houthi militamen in possession of Yemeni military 2K12 Kub (NATO: SA-6 "Gainful") mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems.

Both Yemen and Iran's militaries operate the 2K12 Kub SAM system.

Recently, Iranian and Houthi leaders have made public statements to the effect that Yemen under the control of Ansarallah has joined the Iran-led "Axis of Resistence."