The Iranians have been making noises about deploying warships off the U.S. East Coast as retaliation for the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf. I don’t know if this is mere posturing but, as Iranian ideology and recent (hopefully genuine) events demonstrate, the Iranians and their terrorist proxies have an interest in creating some degree of mayhem within the United States.
The Iranians need not deploy their warships at all. Indeed, why should they? Any Iranian combatant vessel would be bird-dogged 24/7 and sunk (one hopes!) at the first sign of trouble . All the Iranians need is a few freighters of foreign registry carrying concealed cruise missiles. Unlike German raiders of World War Two, merchant ships in the cruise missile age do not need to be extensively modified to become lethal. Installing gun mounts, ammunition magazines and such in a merchant ship that is not designed to carry them takes real work. Installing brackets and innocuous-looking environmental covers to hold a few sealed cruise missile tubes does not.
Convenient maintenance and resupply facilities would be available in Cuba or Venezuela, where Iranians and their proxies are much caressed by the local dictators.
Targeting? The Iranians may be vicious ideologues, but dummies they are not. If you want to fire on land targets, simply pre-program the missile to fly to a specific set of GPS coordinates. Chemical/biological air burst over D.C., anyone? All you need is an untraceable satphone call from Tehran – or anywhere else in the world – to the ship. Or, since we no longer “do” Morse, a simple and undetectable Morse code command would do just fine.
Or would you prefer to damage the great Satan’s reputation and ability to project power by striking an aircraft carrier or a major amphibious ship as it sorties from Hampton Roads? Any large vessel trying to get to the open ocean from Naval Base Norfolk is a sitting duck. You operate two or more merchantmen in concert; a couple provide targeting data, another fires from a distance. The missiles fly independently to a specific GPS set of coordinates, acquire the target and attack independently. Or you do not have such sophisticated missiles, you can sit in the comfort of the Chesapeake Grill on one of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel islands, have a targeting package such as a laser designator in your car, and watch the Humble-the-Great-Satan show while munching hush puppies!
The key question seems to me to be an inversion of an old saw: can young dogs learn old tricks?
Given the Obama administration’s track record, the answer seems to be a resounding No.