Iran has launched a new warship on to the Caspian, in what a senior naval commander called a "symbol of the authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran at sea."
The new ship, called Separ ("Shield") was launched at a December 5 ceremony from Iran's Caspian naval base at Anzali. There was apparently some sort of last-minute delay, as earlier press reports had said that the ship would be launched on the occasion of Iran's Navy Day, which is November 28.
The Separ becomes Iran's sixth combat-ready warship in the Caspian, the Iranian Fars news agency reported. It is a Paykan-class corvette, 47 meters in length and armed with surface-to-surface missiles and 76- and 40-millimeter guns. There is at least one other Paykan-class ship in the Caspian now, and Iran's flagship in the Caspian remains the Damavand destroyer, launched in 2015.
Iran's Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said at the ceremony that all the Caspian states shared “the willingness ... to increase cooperation over peace, friendship and security."
Hatami "also expressed Iran’s readiness to expand its defense cooperation with its neighbors, expressing hope that such joint efforts will protect the security of the region and its nations," Press TV reported.
The most interesting trend of late on the Caspian has in fact been Iran's increasing defense cooperation with its neighbors. In October, Azerbaijan's navy made its first-ever port visit to Iran.
Earlier this year Iran made its first-ever naval visit to Kazakhstan; Kazakhstan reciprocated in September. This summer, Iran took part for the first time in the "Caspian Cup," a Russia-organized naval sporting competition that this year was hosted in Baku.
The launch came at an interesting time, as the foreign ministers of the five Caspan littoral states met in Kazakhstan. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that the states were close to coming to a final agreement on how to delineate the sea between the five states. The uncertainty over that lack of delineation has been a significant driver for tension on the sea, and the concomitant militarization by all five littoral countries.
"We proceed from the premise that the line under the talks on this document will be drawn at the next, fifth Caspian summit in Kazakhstan," Lavrov said on December 5.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.