Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant revealed on Monday that Iran is converting commercial vessels into armed military platforms, equipped with drones, missiles and advanced reconnaissance systems.
These “floating terror bases” were an extension of Iran’s ongoing maritime terrorism in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, said Gallant.
The goal of Tehran’s “pirate policy” is to expand its reach to the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and even the shores of the Mediterranean, he said.
“Iran is conducting itself like a collection of criminal organizations and not a modern state,” said Gallant at a conference organized by Reichman University’s Institute for Policy and Strategy.
“This is a structured plan designed to threaten trade and flight routes–both military and civilian—and to create a permanent threat in the maritime arena,” he said.
In February, Iranian forces targeted the Liberia-flagged Campo Square, whose owner is Zodiac Maritime, a shipping company led by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.
The incident involved “Shahed 136” suicide drones as well as Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessels, based on briefings by U.S. military sources. These are the same unmanned aerial vehicles that have been used as kamikaze drones by Russia in Ukraine, having been provided by the Iranian regime.
Tehran has on several occasions targeted merchant vessels associated with Israeli figures, including a missile attack near the coast of Oman in 2021 that left two of the targeted ship’s crew dead.
The best way to confront Iranian terrorism “in the air, at sea and on land,” is through international cooperation and the creation of coalitions, said Gallant on Monday.
His comments come amid reports that a nuclear facility Iran is constructing near the Zagros Mountains is so deep underground it is likely beyond the range of a U.S. weapon designed to destroy such sites.
Satellite imagery shows Iranian workers digging tunnels near the Natanz nuclear site in central Iran, about 140 miles south of Tehran. Based on the size of dirt mounds and other satellite data, experts at the center told AP that Iran is likely building a facility at a depth of between 260 feet and 328 feet.
Such facilities led the U.S. to create the 30,000-pound, precision-guided GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), or “bunker buster” bomb, which according to the U.S. military can penetrate at least 200 feet of earth before detonating.
While U.S. officials have reportedly discussed using two such munitions one after the other in quick succession, it is not clear whether even that would be enough to damage the new Natanz facility.