As Washington announced tougher new sanctions on Iran, Tehran announced plans to build its own nuclear submarine, close the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, dismissed U.S. aircraft carriers as "rusty iron" that can easily be sunken and said it has targeted 23 American bases in the region for ballistic missile strikes.
Meanwhile, it appears increasingly likely that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right in saying the Iranians are using the nuclear negotiations with the world powers to stall for time while they continue enriching uranium to build a nuclear weapon.
Norman Polmar, a naval analyst who has written authoritatively about nuclear submarines, said Iranian talk of building its own nuclear submarine is "bull****."
"Look at all the problems they're having building a nuclear weapon, and a nuclear propulsion plant is orders of magnitude more difficult," he said. "India has been trying to build a nuclear submarine since it exploded its first nuclear device in 1974 and still hasn't got one. The cost of developing a nuclear sub is ludicrous, not only the cost of the subs but all the support facilities as well."
Iran currently has three Russian-built diesel electric Kilo class submarines. "They are good ocean-going subs but the question is how good are the Iranians in operating them, and I think they're not very good because they have a lack of training and experience," he said. Iran also has eight home-built subs of lesser quality.
"The Iranian subs can do damage to Gulf shipping but they can only do it once because if they went after an American ship, we would retaliate by destroying their bases and infrastructure and ability to support their subs, and then we'd hunt down and kill all their subs," he said.
What about the threat to closing the Strait of Hormuz? "It's all bluster. It would do more damage to their economy than ours," he said. "Their primary source of income is exporting oil. They have virtually no refining capacity so if they can't ship out their crude or import aviation fuel and gasoline, it would destroy their economy."