(GPA) Tehran – Iranian general General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri announced on Sunday that his country’s military would like to expand navel bases overseas– ideally near Syria or Yemen. The announcement came just days after Wikileaks released the Yemen Files— over 500 documents and emails confirming direct U.S. training and funding for the pro-Saudi Yemeni government forces. So why? And how will this play out on the geopolitical chessboard?
“We need distant bases, and it may become possible one day to have bases on the shores of Yemen or Syria, or bases on islands or floating (bases),” said General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said as quoted by Shargh Daily. There could be a few reasons for this. First of all, Iranian bases overseas would provide a heavy counterweight to pro-Saudi and ultimately pro-Western influence in the region. “Maritime equipment should focus on intelligence and enemy information and strategies and doctrines we must constantly update [which would be] helpful [to] deter the enemy,” Baqeri states (translated) as reported by the Iranian outlet Fars News Agency.
Furthermore, Iran has a lot to lose in Syria; a nearby naval base could help provide support for Iranian soldiers in the war-torn country. As of this week, over 1,000 Iranian forces have died fighting in Syria supporting the Syrian government forces. (It is unclear if this number includes only Iranian-government forces or an accumulation of Hezbollah fighters and Shi’a soldiers from Pakistan and Afghanistan.) Either way, ISIS influence slipping into Iran is a devastating thought, so eliminating the terror group in Syria is essential for Iran’s stability.
However, this announcement was not well-received by the Houthis in Yemen. President of the Supreme Political Council, Saleh al-Samad, announced in a Facebook post that they do not want any foreign influence in their country– whether from an enemy or ally. “Not one inch of Yemen’s land or waters will be forfeited to any foreign party … whether a friend or an enemy,” he said. Indeed, Yemen has potential to turn into a Syria-type situation: with world powers duking it out and foreign fighters shuffling in from all over the world.
As the general himself admits, nuclear capabilities alone simply aren’t a successful deterrent any longer: “Is having distant bases less than nuclear technology? I say it is worth dozens of times more.” Under a Trump presidency the future of the Iran Nuclear Agreement remains unclear. It is unlikely the president-elect will scrap the agreement completely, but a significant changes could certainly be in the cards. In fact, the United States is already considering violating the nuclear agreement by considering renewal of the Iranian Sanctions Act. Publicly announcing the idea of overseas bases also gives Iran the opportunity to send a powerful message to the west and their Mid East allies that Iranian influence won’t be going away or caving to U.S. pressure anytime soon.