Major Iran exercise underway with focus on Straits of Hormuz

Friday, March 31, 2006

NICOSIA Iran has launched a major military exercise in the Gulf meant to repel any U.S. attack on the Islamic republic.

On Friday, Iran's army, navy, air force and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began a week-long exercise, Middle East Newsline reported. The exercise, which also included the Basij paramilitary unit, was reported to have taken place in the northern Gulf as well as in southern Iran.

Officials said the exercise would focus operations in the Straits of Hormuz. Teheran has often warned that any U.S. attempt to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities would result in attacks on oil shipping in the Gulf.

"Some 80 percent of Persian Gulf oil is shipped out of this strait over which Iran has dominant and precise control," Rear Adm. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghan, a military spokesman, said. "If the enemy wants to make the area insecure, rest assured that he will also suffer from lack of security, since we know the location of their vessels."

"The IRGC navy and air force, in collaboration with the [regular] army, navy, Basij, and the Iranian police, will start a maneuver from March 31 until April 6 in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman," IRGC naval commander Rear Adm. Mostafa Safari said on Thursday.

Safari said the unnamed exercise would contain more than 17,000 soldiers as well as 1,500 surface and other naval vessels. He said the military would also deploy fighter-jets, helicopters and an array of missiles.

"We hope we will gain the necessary and needed readiness to decisively reply to any kind of threats," Safari said. "Improving the preparedness of the armed forces in defending Iran's independence and territorial integrity and boosting our defense capabilities are among the reasons for holding these maneuvers."

Officials said this would be the first major military exercise in 2006. They said Iran held a major multi-service exercise in the Gulf in late 2005 designed to enhance skills to foil any U.S.-led invasion.

"The exercise will cover an area stretching from the northern tip of the Persian Gulf all the way to the port city of Chahbahar in the Sea of Oman extending 40 kilometers into the sea," Safari said.

Copyright 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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