Sea Transportation: Iranian Missiles


January 19, 2024: Iran has long been the largest developer and manufacturer of cruise and ballistic missiles in the Middle East. This large and growing arsenal of missiles was not used in the Persian Gulf as that would quickly lead to foreign powers retaliating against Iran for disrupting the oil shipments to customers worldwide. A lot of the oil coming out of the Gulf is Iranian and Iran needs the revenue from those exports. Instead, the Iranian missiles are sold or, in many cases given, to pro-Iran groups that will use the missiles against their enemies, who are often enemies of Iran as well.

Iran prefers to sell its missiles and is currently selling millions of dollars’ worth to Russia for use in Ukraine. Iran delivers these missiles to Russia using the inland sea route via the landlocked Caspian Sea, which is the world's largest lake. The Caspian Sea is huge, at 371,000 square kilometers, about the same size as Poland. It is about a thousand kilometers long and 430 kilometers wide. It's saline but is only about a third as salty as ocean water. The Caspian has a 7,000-kilometer-long coastline, with the largest chunk, 1,900 kilometers, belonging to Kazakhstan.

Since 1952, a canal linking the Don and Volga rivers gave the Caspian Sea access to the Black Sea and the world's oceans. However, the largest ships that can use the canal must be no more than 140 meters long, 17 meters wide, and a draft of no more than 3.5 meters. The canal moves over 12 million tons of cargo a year. About half of that is oil or oil products. Now the cargo includes Iranian missiles headed for Russia via river. Because of weapons sanctions imposed on Russia, the Caspian Sea is a safe and convenient route for Russian cargo ships moving cargo from Iran.




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