A Nour missile is test fired off Iran's first domestically made destroyer, Jamaran, on the southern shores of Iran in the Persian Gulf March 9, 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EBRAHIM NOROOZI/IIPA)
Iran has sent much of its navy to take part in a three-day drill across two million sq. km. of sea between the Straits of Hormuz and the Indian Ocean. Iranian media boasted the drill, which ends Sunday, was a major illustration of Tehran’s sea power. It involved missiles, reconnaissance drones, submarines, helicopters and frigates.
The mission, deemed Velayat 97, began Friday in the Persian Gulf and off the coast of Oman. Fars News reported that the Fatah ‘Conqueror’ class submarine, the first of its type constructed in Iran and operational for the last several years, took part in the drill. The Sahand class frigate, also designed in Iran and launched in 2012, also took part. Tehran says that 100 naval units were involved.
Several weapons systems, including cruise missiles, torpedoes and rocket launchers, were tested. Tasnim News reported Saturday that during the second and third day of the drill naval drones equipped with bombs were tested. Hovercraft and surface-to-surface cruise missiles were also fired on the second day.
The naval exercise comes at a time of tensions with the US, after Washington condemned Iran at the recent summit in Warsaw. In addition, Iran has upped tensions with Saudi Arabia after a terror attack in southeastern Iran, which Tehran blamed partly on Riyadh. Iran has also recently condemned the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the US.
Sending its navy to the Strait of Hormuz, a major chokepoint for the world’s oil, is provocative. While Iran’s navy is no match for the US warships patrolling the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, Tehran’s display is meant to show that its locally designed ships and submarines can perform their functions and to show that the Islamic regime can incorporate missile and air units into the country’s naval repertoire. Iran’s navy is not intended to actually engage the US fleet in open battle, but to pose a threat, such that it can tie up its neighbors who need to plan for every eventuality. For instance, Gen. Charles F. Wald, former deputy commander of the US European command, said at a conference of the Middle East Forum on February 6 that if Iran ever fired at the US navy, “that’s the last time they’d have a navy.”
Iran’s display of naval power off Oman may also indicate its broader intentions regarding Oman and Yemen. In the latter, Iran has supported Houthi rebels who have used Iranian technology to target Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles. 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.
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