By Jon Dougherty
The Iranian navy launched a three-day naval exercise on Friday in the Persian Gulf that encompasses a wide expanse of ocean including the Strait of Hormuz and stretches to the Sea of Oman and northern portions of the Indian Ocean, according to state media reports.
Some news reports claim that the drills may go on for a week or more, but all of them are emphasizing the “large-scale” nature of the exercises which includes showcasing the Iranian navy’s newest and alleged domestically-produced cruise missile submarine Fatah and its newest Sahand destroyer.
The Fatah, or “Conqueror,” was celebrated during an event earlier this week, just days after Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. Iranian navy officials claim the sub is “state-of-the-art” and has the ability to remain underwater for five weeks.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani introduced the new sub on Sunday to thousands at the port city of Bandar Lengeh, UPI reported.
Here’s a promotion for the sub:
— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2019
The Iranian naval drills come following last week’s U.S.-sponsored Warsaw conference during which American and Israeli officials issued thinly-veiled threats of war against the Islamic republic. 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.”
Zero Hedge notes further:
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.
Writing in Foreign Policy, Cook warned:
Taken together—the Warsaw conference, Pence’s bullying of the Europeans, Bolton’s threatening video, and the broader background noise in Washington—the events of the past week were familiar in a foreboding way.
The chatter about Iran has not become the war fever that gripped Washington in 2002 over Iraq, but the echoes of that year are not hard to miss in the Trump administration’s effort to shape the domestic and international debate about Iran.
Iran’s military drills will include warship exercises, amphibious assaults, and operations aimed at thwarting amphibious landings, Tehran’s military said.
#BREAKING: #Iran Navy is now testing its new weapons including new Fateh-Class submarine during exercise "Velayat-97" in Oman Sea close to #Pakistan territorial waters. First stage of the exercise is a counter-amphibious assault operation for protecting the shores of #Chabahar. pic.twitter.com/85log0FNUf
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) February 22, 2019
Naval experts agree that Iran’s navy doesn’t pose an insurmountable threat to the U.S. Navy, but clearly, the Iranians are seeking capabilities that will make it more difficult for the United States to exert control over the region’s waterways in an emergency, whether to interdict Iranian warships or to keep oil-shipping lanes open or both.
Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, the Iranian naval commander, eluded to 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.
Khanzadi said the games, formally called “Velayat 97,” will begin about a mile or so from the Strait of Hormuz and extend as far as 10 degrees north of the Indian Ocean.
Such an extended zone has given some analysts pause that there could be broader implications for Oman and Yemen.
The Jerusalem Post addressed those concerns.
“In Yemen Iran has supported the Houthi rebels who have used Iranian technology to target Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles,” the paper noted. Also, 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.”
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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