Is an Italian Warship Docking in Iran a Further Signal of the Demise of NATO?

An Italian Navy frigate, named the “Euro” docked at Iran‘s southern port city of Bandar Abbas on Saturday for a four-day visit. Iran’s ISNA news agency said the “Euro” would visit other Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf noting that the visit comes two weeks after an Italian navy delegation visited the capital, Tehran. A five member Italian military delegation undertook a five-day visit to inspect several units of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Italian delegation also held talks on bilateral issues and military cooperation.

Iran’s military attaché, Commander of Iran’s First Naval Zone Admiral Hossein Azad, met with Italy’s ambassador to Tehran, Mauro Conciatori, saying that the Italian frigate had been dispatched to Iran with the purpose of improving political, cultural and military relation, “given the international nature of naval forces in all countries across the world, naval units comprising warships and air-force  units are dispatched to other countries each year in the form of a fleet.” Azad also noted that such visits are aimed at enhancing international maritime interactions and conducting joint naval manoeuvres between two or more countries.

He added that whilst the “enemy” had sought to undermine Iran, other countries had previously dispatched their naval and military forces to Iran and participated in joint projects. Iran’s credentials in terms of adherence to security protocols meant that neighbouring countries and those further afield were happy to undertake such exercises. The Italian Navy said that the frigate was part of a mission by the European Union to fight piracy and also that the visit comes as part of the resumption of “historic and excellent relations” between the two navies. In perhaps the most interesting development, we understand that Iran has negotiated a deal which would allow their warships to be docked in Italian ports.

In further developments, an Italian economic delegation composed of representatives of 197 companies, associations and banks, led by the minister of transportation and infrastructural affairs as well as agriculture, visited Iran in February. In April, Iran and Italy signed 12 bilateral trade contracts in the presence of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade, Mohammadreza Nematzadeh.

Negotiations are also underway between Iranian and Italian trade delegations to discuss further cooperation in economy, trade and banking. The sectors include, oil, gas, electricity, power plant, steel, textile, fashion, car, infrastructure, urban planning and architecture, telecommunication, railway, airport construction, shipping, refinery, and petrochemicals. In July an Italian economic delegation including 70 economic firms travelled to Tehran.

Whilst the recent visit of the “Euro” could be regarded as being a routine exercise, one needs to place this in the context of european nations who are calling for a european army, which would undoubtedly supersede NATO. The Italian navy also stated that this visit was part of an “EU initiative” to fight piracy and not via NATO.

This visit is also symbolic of far greater developments, in that we are seeing the renewal of a military relationship between the EU and Iran after many years of US led hostility, who undoubtedly was the “enemy” that Azad was referring too. What is also clear is that should Clinton be elected in the US presidential elections in November, the EU is not going to sign up to any renewal of tensions with Iran. It would also be fair to say that other EU nations such as France and Germany approve of this visit. NATO is fast becoming more irrelevant by the day and the bilateral trade agreements and military cooperation between Italy and Iran are another indication of this happening.

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