Iran Prepares to Establish Its First Mediterranean Naval Bases in Syria and Italy

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and supreme military council have ordered the commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear-Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, to start preparing for the establishment of a base in Syria that would provide the country with a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean.
Until now, the farthest that the Iranian Navy had reached was the Gulf of Aden.
The intervention of the fleets of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the Yemen war pushed the Iranian navy back from its thrust to expand its presence towards the Mediterranean. Their joint action evicted the Iranian navy from Yemen’s Red Sea ports, and prevented Tehran from capturing the strategic islands in the mouth of the Bab-al-Mandab Strait at the entrance to the Red Sea.
Today, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources point out, the Iranian Navy will find it difficult to carry out the ayatollah’s order because it lacks the warships and advanced submarines for this strategic mission. This navy can certainly not stand up to Egypt’s Mistral-class helicopter carriers, the Anwar El Sadat (delivered last Saturday, September 16) and the Gamal Abdel Nasser, which can carry 92 attack helicopters.
Neither do the Iranians have an answer for the Dolphin-class submarines that Germany has sold Israel.
These shortcomings provided the impetus for the five-member Italian delegation’s five-day visit to Iran, headed by Rear-Admiral Roberto Chia Marcella that started on Sept. 5.
His talks with Iranian Navy Commander Sayyari ended in agreement to strengthen bilateral ties.
Iran has the money and the will to invest in new warships, while Italy has the will to build such ships for the Iranian fleet. The Italians are not even deterred by the idea that Italian naval bases could be used as Mediterranean bases for the Iranian fleet.
Besides the financial benefits, Italy is additionally motivated to swing this deal by the steady reduction in the number of warships that the US Sixth Fleet maintains at its ports. It has been nearly a year since a US aircraft carrier anchored at an Italian port. Italy’s Defense Ministry and its military command understand that if the US president who succeeds Barack Obama in January continues the policy of withdrawing American forces from the Middle East, most Italian naval bases will be emptied of warships.
During his visit to Iran, Rear-Admiral Marcella said "In the future, we will witness Italian vessels berthing at (Iran's) southern harbors falling within the Iranian Navy's sphere of operation.” He added, “It is certain that these talks and meetings will lead to the development of interaction and cooperation in different military areas between the two countries of Iran and Italy."
For his part, Iranian Navy Commander Sayyari said "Italy enjoys around 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) of maritime border and the Mediterranean is also strategically very significant, given the fact that it connects the important Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar.”
These words already served to delineate the waters where Italian-made Iranian warships were likely to operate in the future.

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