Iran is in possession of improved and dangerous weapons systems that give Tehran the ability to threaten some of the world’s most important waterways, according to the top American admiral in the Middle East.
“They have a growing capability in cruise missiles, they have a growing capability in ballistic missiles, they have a growing capability in unmanned surfaced systems, all these things that we watch that are offensive, and destabilizing in nature,” Vice Adm. James Malloy, the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, told a small group of reporters in Bahrain on Wednesday.
Unmanned surface systems, which can include explosive boats designed to target enemy vessels, have concerned US officials for some time, particularly after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen used such a boat to attack a vessel that belonged to Saudi Arabia.The US has accused Tehran of supplying the Houthis with these boats.
Iran’s military also possesses advanced sea mines, including acoustic and magnetic variants, a US defense official tells CNN, weapons that could pose major risks to maritime traffic.
Additionally, Russia’s sale of advanced air defense systems to Iran, including the S-300 missile system, has sparked growing concern that within five years the US will have to fundamentally change how it operates in the region’s critical waterways, according to a senior US military official.
The official said the new air defenses are just one aspect of a changing security environment that could result in traditional ports being not readily accessible due to Iranian missiles and mines.
The US assesses that Iran is in the early stages of deploying the S-300 system.
Iran’s increased ability to threaten ships in the region comes as some military officials have expressed concerns about some of the more strident anti-Iran posturing being undertaken by hardline members of President Donald Trump’s National Security Council.