NICOSIA -- Iran has directed its internal militia, the Basij, to join a program to triple its navy's size.
Officials said Basij, which is authorized to protect the regime and ensure border security, would patrol the Gulf in coordination with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
In September 2008, IRGC took over all Iranian naval operations in the Gulf. IRGC was said to have deployed up to 500 speedboats as part of a swarm strategy designed to overcome Western aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates.
"The Basij under command council of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps will build up its navy force in the Persian Gulf," an Iranian government statement said on Nov. 19.
Officials said Basij, comprised largely of seminary and other young supporters of the regime, would be trained in naval operations. They said IRGC would provide Basij officers with speedboats and other vessels for patrols around the Strait of Hormuz, passage for up to 40 percent of the world's oil shipments.
Basij commander Brig. Gen. Hojatoleslam Hossein Tayeb said the formation of the naval force was part of IRGC's program to bolster military readiness. Tayeb said IRGC wants to triple the size of the overall navy in cooperation with the conventional Iranian Navy.
"Basij Navy troops will be well prepared to thwart any possible threat to Iranian territory." Tayeb said.
Basij, said to draw upon up to 12 million Iranians, has undergone an expansion over the last two years. In September, Basij conducted an exercise meant to demonstrate its skills to secure the Islamic regime amid any Western attack.
"Basij is committed to train skilled forces for the IRGC navy and ground forces to thwart enemy threats under sensitive conditions," Tayeb said.