Iran to hold new naval exercises
Tehran: Iran`s Revolutionary Guards will hold new naval exercises in the strategic Strait of Hormuz in February, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.
The late Thursday announcement came only two days after Iran`s Navy wrapped up another set of war games near the strait, the passageway for about a third of the world`s oil tanker traffic.
Tehran`s periodic naval maneuvers fall under close international scrutiny, as some Iranian officials have threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz should the West strike the country`s nuclear facilities or embargo oil exports.
The report quoted the Guard`s naval commander Adm. Ali Fadavi as saying that the latest exercise would be the seventh staging of an annual drill dubbed "The Great Prophet”.
However, Fadavi said that this year`s war games would be "different" from their predecessors. He did not elaborate.
The admiral said the drill would be held in the Iranian month of Bahman, which roughly corresponds to February.
The Guards, Iran`s most powerful military unit, have the same air, naval and ground branches as the regular armed forces. They are also in charge of Iran`s missile program.
Iran`s regular navy on Tuesday ended a 10-day drill in the waters off the Strait, dubbed "Velayat 90”.
Military officers said that Iran held the maneuvers to show off its prowess and defense capabilities. The country regularly holds war games and has also been active in fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
The drill however was also the latest in a series of Iranian shows of strength as international criticism mounts over Tehran`s controversial nuclear program. The West fears the program is aimed at developing atomic weapons, while Iran denies those charges, insisting that it is for peaceful purposes only.
The US has recently tightened sanctions on Iran, and has not ruled out a military strike against nuclear facilities.
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