March 15, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1754

Gen. Yahyah Safavi, Senior Advisor To Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'We Must Increase Our Strategic Depth To 5,000 Kilometers'; 'The IRGC Navy And Air Force Must Focus On The Red Sea And Mediterranean Sea – Because Future Wars Will Be At Sea And In The Air'

March 15, 2024 | By A. Savyon*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1754

In a March 6, 2024 speech at a conference marking the 40th anniversary of Imam Hossein University where the cadres of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are trained, Gen. Yahyah Rahim Safavi, senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, discussed the future aims of the Iranian regime. He stressed the need to increase Iran's strategic depth from today's 2,000 kilometers – that is, reaching to the Mediterranean Sea – to a range of 5,000 kilometers.

The Aim: Expanding Iran's Strategic Depth To 5,000 Kilometers

It should be noted that during the years of nuclear negotiations with the U.S., Iranian regime officials declared that they were voluntarily restricting the range of their missiles to 2,000 kilometers, allowing them to threaten only Israel and Saudi Arabia, its regional enemies (a claim that was accepted by the Obama administration) as well as American interests in the region. (See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1518, The Iran-U.S. Conflict: Iran Is Working On Obtaining Strategic Capability – Long-Range Missiles And Nuclear Submarines, June 26, 2020; MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1357, IRGC Commander Jafari In Message Meant To Reassure Europe: Right Now, We Are Settling For Missiles With 2,000-Km Range – A Range That Covers U.S. Forces In The Region, November 3, 2017.

This declaration, which was by a senior official close to Khamenei, apparently signaled the beginning of the Iranian regime's pivot away from its declared self-imposed restrictive policy regarding the range of its threat to the Middle East towards expansion vis-à-vis Europe and even the U.S. It should be noted that the Iranian regime had in fact achieved the goal of this range, i.e. 5,000 kilometers, since it has already successfully launched several satellites into space.

On May 4, 2020, the regime mouthpiece Kayhan wrote in its editorial about the previous month's successful launch into space of Iran's Noor satellite, stating: "The Americans are not concerned about the launch of the [Noor] satellite as much as they are concerned about the technology of manufacturing intercontinental missiles that are used to launch satellites. The launch of this satellite must be seen as a component of [Iran's] space program that shows that the Americans are unaware of the scope [of this program], just as they were unable to monitor it until the satellite was placed in orbit. [All of this shows] that the Islamic Republic has surpassed all the limitations of the nuclear agreement."[1] (See also statements by Iranian officials on the significance of the satellite's successful launch into space and on the Iranian regime's achievement of strategic capability, MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1518, The Iran-U.S. Conflict: Iran Is Working On Obtaining Strategic Capability – Long-Range Missiles And Nuclear Submarines, June 26, 2020.

Launch of an Iranian missile (Source: Tasnim, Iran, June 8, 2020)

Another notable point in Gen. Safavi's speech concerned Iran's preparations for a future war at sea and in the air, and the resulting focus on strategic areas of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. In this context, we should note Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani's December 14, 2023 statement that the Red Sea is a region of Iran. (See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 11022, Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani Responds To Proposed U.S.-Backed Red Sea Force: 'If Americans Make Such A Foolish Move, They Will Be Faced With Extraordinary Problems'; 'This Region Is Ours,' December 15, 2023.)

Gen. Safavi: "We Must [Now] Increase Our Strategic Depth To 5,000 Kilometers; The Red Sea And The Mediterranean Sea Are Strategic Points; The IRGC Navy And Air Force Must Focus On These Points"

Below is the translation of Gen. Yahyah Safavi's March 6, 2024 speech at Imam Hossein University:

"The elements of the success of this university are a combination of faith, integrity, and obedience to the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini [the founder of Iran's Islamic Revolution]. The founders of the IRGC recognized the pure Islam, and we recognize the importance of the pure Islam, of the thought of the Imam [Khomeini] and the Imam Khamenei, which is the same thought as that of the Fourteen Infallibles [the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, and the 12 Imams].

"In addition to this, the IRGC has advanced in science and rationality and waged the war [the 1980-88 Iran-Iran war] according to this formula. Most of the commanders in the war were students or alumni of the universities. We took control of the enemy [via] thought, rationality, and planning operations, and attacked the enemy from points that could not be identified.

"The source of the IRGC is its people, and it serves the people, and this is one of the most important reasons for its development. The IRGC will remain of the people to the end. Additionally, one of the elements of the IRGC's success is the use of the capabilities of the state and the orders of the Imam [Khamenei]. The main mission of Imam Hussein University is linked to the internal [part] of the IRGC – that is, it needs to train an operational and people-oriented team. Furthermore, Imam Hussein University must assist the government and the state.

Gen. Yahyah Safavi, advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (Source: Tasnim, Iran, March 6, 2024)

"The Leader [Khamenei] has strengthened the resistance front in the past 34 years, and [slain IRGC Qods Force commander] Gen. [Qassem] Soleimani also used the capabilities of the IRGC to do so, and today you are witness to how the Yemenis [Houthis] are humiliating the Americans.

"We have no choice but to deepen the state's defense and security. Our strategic depth is the Mediterranean Sea [2,000 kilometers], and we must [now] increase our strategic depth to 5,000 kilometers. The Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea are strategic points; the IRGC Navy and Air Force must focus on these points because future wars will be at sea and in the air."[2]


* Ayelet Savyon is director of the MEMRI Iran Media Studies project.


[1] Kayhan (Iran), May 4, 2020.

[2] Tasnim (Iran), March 6, 2024.

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