Iran Sows Mines, Also Self-Protects against Reprisals in Kind

On March 6, the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) warned merchant ships of the dangers of mines set by Iranian-backed Yemeni rebel Houthis in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait near Yemen’s Mokha port entrance. Such attacks on ships would trigger the involvement of other parties, said ONI, adding that the US Navy will deploy all the needed efforts to protect the freedom of shipping. The warning added that the strait’s closure could push up world oil prices.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) is richly experienced in developing equipment for the laying of sea mines by means of small craft. In 1987, during the seven-year Iran-Iraq war, they used a Japanese-built landing craft called Iran Ajr, originally Arya Rakhsh, for sowing naval mines in Gulf waters.
Since then, mine-laying exercises have been incorporated in all of Iran’s naval drills, to the accompaniment of frequent threats from Tehran to use mines for closing the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf’s oil exporting ports.
This year, saw a new development in mine warfare: the emergence of drones capable of planting mines in the sea – but also the acquisition by some Gulf Arab navies of drones for underwater mine-hunting
Iranian war strategists were alarmed. They suddenly realized that sea mines were a two-edged weapon, one that could easily be turned against them by their Gulf adversaries as well as Israel. If those adversaries suffered damage from Iranian mines, they had the means to retaliate by sowing mines in Iran’s own civilian and military ports along the Gulf.
So, for the first time, the large-scale Velayat 95 war games conducted by the Iranian Navy on Feb. 26 included a mine clearance practice using sonic and magnetic demining devices. This complicated technology previously monopolized by the big powers was recently mastered by Iran.
During the exercise, units operating from several helicopters swept broad stretches of ocean in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman to clear them of mines.
The next day, another Iranian war strategy, its special plan for attacking the Saudi capital with upgraded Scud missiles, was set back. A Saudi coalition aircraft killed a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer in Yemen’s northwestern region of Sa’ada. This officer, known only by his nom de guerre “The Afghan,” was responsible for designing and operating the new ballistic missile system that was designated for Houthi rebel attacks on Riyadh.
He was the sixth IRGC killed by Saudi air strikes in the past month. The governor of Sa’ada said that the number of Iranian Guards and Hizballah combatants gathering in this Yemen province on the Saudi border had “recently doubled.”

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