Iran plans to demonstrate its “capabilities” by conducting six days of naval exercise in the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf later this week, its top Navy Officer said on Tuesday.
The drills, dubbed “Velayat 91,” will cover an area that includes the strait, the Sea of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean, Admiral Habibollah Sayari (photo) said in remarks reported by the ISNA news agency.
Warships, submarines and missile defense systems will be used and tested during the exercise scheduled to begin on Friday December 28, he said.
“We will definitely respect the maritime border of our neighbors, and conduct the maneuvers based on international law,” Sayari said.
“Iran aims to demonstrate its defensive naval capabilities by conducting this exercise, and send a message of peace and friendship to regional countries.”
Iran frequently conducts missile tests and maneuvers to underline its military muscle and has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tanker traffic should it be attacked.
The strait is a narrow channel at the entrance of the Gulf through which a third of the world’s traded oil passes.
The United States has warned Iran that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a “red line” -- grounds for U.S. military action.
Iran’s regular Navy, with 17,000 servicemen, is tasked with defending Iranian interests in the Indian Ocean and beyond. Its offshore forces are limited to half a dozen small frigates and destroyers, and three Russian Kilo class submarines.
The naval arm of the elite Revolutionary Guards is tasked with defending Iran’s territorial waters in the Gulf.
The mass deployment of UK and U.S. forces in the Arabian Gulf earlier this year was been downplayed by defense experts in September, brushing off suggestions that the substantial military moves were linked to a possible Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The U.S. Navy announced, on August 30 that “the U.S. Fifth Fleet will host its first International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX)” in the Arabian Gulf. “With more than 20 nations participating from Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North America, IMCMEX 2012 will be the largest of its kind ever in this region,” according to the U.S. Navy statement.
The statement added “that IMCMEX 12 is a defensive exercise aimed at preserving freedom of navigation in international waterways in the region.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards naval units began a four-day exercise inside Iranian waters at South Pars, a joint gas field between Iran and Qatar, a Guards spokesman was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
The drill, dubbed “Fajr 91,” is aimed at honing “capabilities in executing defensive and security scenarios,” Admiral Alireza Nasseri said without elaborating.
Source: Al Arabiya; AFP; ISNA; Fars