Friday, February 22, 2019

Iran Navy Begins 3 Day 'Large-Scale' War Games - Across World's Key Oil Checkpoints

Iran's navy has begun a three day war game exercise on Friday in the Persian Gulf, in an expansive area encompassing Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, to the Sea of Oman and even stretching to northern parts of the Indian Ocean, state media reports. Some reports indicate the games could go on for as much as a week, but all emphasized the "large-scale" nature of the drills in which Iran's navy will showcase the Fateh-class submarine — a domestically built sub carrying cruise missiles and torpedoes, as well as its Sahand destroyer.

The cruise missile-firing capable Fateh, or "Conqueror", was launched for the first time at the start of this week and has been touted as "state-of-the-art" and with the ability to stay underwater for five weeks at a time. Crucially, the large exercises come after last week's US-sponsored Warsaw conference in which both Israeli and US officials made threats of war with Tehran. Indeed during the conference Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu openly stated that he was attending the summit with an aim to "advance the common interest of war with Iran."

The games also come at a time when even foreign policy establishment insiders, such as the Council on Foreign Relation's Steven Cook, increasingly acknowledge that the White House's "march to war against Iran" is now "echoing the drumbeats" of the lead up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Iran's drills in the coming days will further involve battleship exercises and amphibious and anti-amphibious warfare maneuvers, according to Iranian military statements. 

Though there's general agreement that Iran's navy poses no match of US superiority on the sea and in the skies, Iran seeks to be a significant disruptor of American Persian Gulf capabilities. 
Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, commander of Iran's navy, reflected this in comments announcing the inauguration of the games: "For the first time, these weapons will be tested seriously and we can make the maritime region unsafe for the enemy in any way possible," he said. He said the games, formally called "Velayat 97," will begin 2km from the Strait of Hormuz and extend 10 degrees north of the Indian Ocean, in an extended zone some analysts worry may indicate broader intentions regarding Oman and Yemen

As the Jerusalem Post summarizes of this concern, "In Yemen Iran has supported the Houthi rebels who have used Iranian technology to target Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles." And recently, "In addition Oman enjoys decent relations with Iran but Oman also hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year and has sought to play a role in the Israel-Palestinian peace efforts."

In the past, Iranian war games have resulted in close encounters with US warships traversing parts of the Persian Gulf. But this somewhat "routine" occurrence could potentially spark a major incident considering the high level of aggressive rhetoric coming out of Washington at this time. 

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