Iran started on Friday six days of naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz, maneuvers aimed at showcasing its military capabilities in what is a vital oil and gas shipping route.
Naval Commander Habibollah Sayyari said the “Velayat 91” drills would last until Wednesday across an area of about 1 million square kilometers in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, the official news agency IRNA reported.
Sayyari said the goal of the maneuvers were to show “the Armed Forces’ military capabilities” in defending Iran’s borders as well as sending a message of peace and friendship to neighboring countries.
He also warned ships to stay away from the site until January 3.
The drills come as the West increases its pressure over Iran’s nuclear program. The West suspects it may be aimed at producing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Iran has threatened to close the straits where one-fifth of the world’s oil passes over Western sanctions but has not repeated the threats lately.
A heavy Western naval presence in the Gulf is meant to deter any attempt to block the waterway.
Iran held a similar 10-day drill last December and sent a submarine and a destroyer into the Gulf four months ago just as US and allied navies were conducting exercises in the same waters to practice keeping oil shipping lanes open.
Source: IRNA; Agencies