Iranian Military Begins Annual Drill in Gulf Amid Tensions with US
Last updated on September 14th, 2020
Iranian military has launched an annual three-day drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz waterway amid the heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The three-day exercise in the eastern side of the strait in the Gulf of Oman is aimed at improving Tehran’s military might to confront “foreign threats and any possible invasion”, said the commander of the manoeuvre, Admiral Habibollah Sardari.
According to the reports, naval, air and ground forces including Iranian submarines and drones took part in the drill called Zolfaghar-99 in a nearly 2-million-square-kilometer area of the Gulf of Oman.
Iranian military handles all operations in the Gulf of Oman on the eastern side of the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of all oil traded passes.
There have been periodic confrontations between Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and the US military in the Gulf in recent years. Washington has accused the Revolutionary Guards’ navy of sending fast-attack boats to harass US warships in the Strait.
Last month, US Central Command published a black-and-white video showing what appeared to be Iranian special forces fast-roping from a helicopter onto the oil tanker MT Wila, whose last position appeared to be off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates near the city of Khorfakkan. Iranian state television later acknowledged the brief seizure, referring to the operation as a routine inspection without elaborating.
In July, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from a helicopter targeting a replica of a US aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz in an exercise aimed to threaten the US.
The spokesman for the drill, Admiral Shahram Irani, told Iranian state TV that the US had withdrawn drones from the area of the drill following a warning from Iran.
In January, a US drone strike killed a top Iranian general at the Baghdad airport and Tehran responded by firing ballistic missiles at American forces in Iraq.
Tensions have risen between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when the US withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six major powers and imposed sanctions on Iran. As a result, Iran has threatened to block the Strait if its crude exports were shut down due to the US sanctions.
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