Iranian Navy Coming to a Shore Near You?

Why the Islamic Republic's vow to send ships to the Atlantic Ocean should not be taken lightly.

The top Iranian naval commander is vowing to send the country’s warships into the Atlantic Ocean and, specifically, the Gulf of Mexico. The Iranian navy is no match for the U.S., but Iran’s move into the Western Hemisphere poses a major asymmetrical threat to the country.

“Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders,” the Iranian state media quoted Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying.

He rejected the possibility of a direct hotline between the U.S. and Iran, saying, “When we go to the Gulf of Mexico, we will establish direct communication with them. In the view of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the illegitimate presence of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf makes no sense.”

The Iranian naval chief bragged about the presence of vessels in the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb. The end goal is to have a naval presence “in all open seas,” including the Atlantic Ocean. In March, he said the Iranian navy would deploy beyond the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman in 2012.

Iran has been aggressively building a presence in the Western Hemisphere. It is allied to Hugo Chavez’s government in Venezuela, where Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have a presence. They are collaborating on their nuclear programs, and Venezuela has agreed to allow Iran to construct a base for medium-range ballistic missiles on the Paraguana Peninsula. Hezbollah is spending $500,000 to set up operations in Cuba. Three operatives have arrived from Mexico, and another 23 are on their way. Hezbollah also has a presence in the Tri-Border Area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and is working with drug lords in Mexico. It is very conceivable that Iranian warships will be allowed to dock in Venezuela, Cuba or perhaps another Latin American country.

The commander’s comments show that Iran aspires to be a global power and seeks to directly threaten the U.S. The preamble of the Iranian constitution says the regime is committed to “the establishment of a universal holy government and the downfall of all others.” A website tied to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei claimed that the U.S. is trying to hijack the Arab Spring and spark a Sunni-Shiite religious war. It said Iran must respond to the Saudi and Bahraini royal families’ oppression of Shiites. “There is indeed a better solution: crush the snake’s head (America),” the website said.

An Iranian naval presence in the Western Hemisphere would help the regime build its terrorist networks. Most frighteningly, it would make it easier for Iran to launch an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack on the U.S. This involves the detonation of a nuclear warhead at high altitude, instead of physically striking a target. All electronic components would be fried for hundreds of miles, crippling the U.S. If executed properly, an EMP attack could knock out all of America’s electricity with anonymity.

The EMP scenario sounds like Hollywood fantasy, but the Congressional EMP Commission chaired by Dr. William Graham, a former science advisor to President Reagan, concluded that the threat is real. The Iranian regime apparently believes so, too. Its military has been simulating an EMP strike with its Shahab-3 medium-range missiles. One Iranian military journal states that the West will “disintegrate” if it is victimized by “dangerous electronic assaults.” “American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot,” it says. The Russian Club-K missile system, obviously designed to give rogue nations the ability to fight the U.S., makes an EMP attack a more realistic possibility.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry of EMPAct America, a top nuclear expert, says that such a catastrophe can be prevented with proper investment. He says that the most important 300 transformers can be shielded from an EMP attack for only $200-400 million. For about $20 billion, the entire power grid can be protected. Rep. Trent Franks launched the Congressional EMP Caucus in February and has introduced the SHIELD Act to “secure the most critical components of America’s electrical infrastructure against the threat posed by a potentially catastrophic electromagnetic pulse.”

Those who dismiss the threat from a nuclear-armed Iran or any other rogue state have failed to grasp warfare in the 21st century. No longer are large navies, armies or even nuclear stockpiles necessary to take down a superpower. The West’s enemies can deliver catastrophic blows using the EMP, cyber warfare, terrorist proxies or other asymmetrical techniques. If Iran believes these methods can bring them victory and is preparing to potentially use them, then we must prepare to defend against them.