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New Iranian base on the Horn 5, January 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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Iran has signed an agreement with Eritrea to refurbish an oil refinery in the port town of Asseb in East African country. Iran has used this opportunity, it has been reported, to move troops, submarines and warships to Asseb. There are several implications of this.

Firstly, it shows that Iran is playing a shrewd game by seeking to diversify its dependency on refined oil products and by planning ahead regarding the potential strengthening of US sanctions. Secondly, it highlights how difficult it is to isolate Iran. Never mind the typical sanction breaking from the French, Russians or Chinese, but there are, it seems, vastly more actors to keep in mind. Thirdly, Iran now has some kind of naval force at another choke point in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. They obviously have numerous bases (including a new one as reported in Jask) by the Straits of Hormuz, but now they are poised near the Horn. Whilst the strength of the Iranian forces is not known, this merely adds to an already complex situation by creating another potential front for Iran and its potential retaliatory options. Fourthly, it increases the areas in which the US and Iranian Navy are in close proximity. Such a state of affairs is not ordinarily such a worrisome thing (though i do seem to remember an issue or two with some Revolutionary Guard speedboats…) but were some kind of conflagration to occur, then another theatre of proximity and hostility is only to be bemoaned.

In short, overall this highlights (to me, at least) the Gordian difficulties of boxing in and chastising Iran punitively. Iran is a rational, resourceful and intelligent state which can and will find ways to frustrate heavy-handed, blanket policies which don’t take into account political realities and have unrealistic expectations.


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