TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards will begin three days of maneuvers in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday to show their naval strength, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The military exercises, in what is a key waterway for global oil supplies, take place at a time of rising tension between Iran and Western powers, which fear Tehran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing bombs. Iran denies the charge.
“Maintaining security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, as the world’s key economic and energy routes, is the main goal of the war games,” Fars quoted Brigadier General Hossein Salami as saying.
“This war game is not a threat for any friendly countries,” he said.
Naval, air and ground forces from the Guards will take part.
The Islamic Republic’s armed forces often hold maneuvers in an apparent bid to show their readiness to deter any military action by Israel or the United States.
Tension with the West has risen in recent months because Iran refuses to halt sensitive nuclear activities, as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.
Washington is pushing for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions on Iran to pressure it to halt its enrichment-related work, which Tehran says is entirely peaceful.
Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, has described Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its existence. Although it says it wants a diplomatic solution, Washington has also not ruled out military action.
Iran, a predominantly Shi’ite Muslim state, has said it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S. interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the Strait of Hormuz.
Salami made no reference to this in his comments, stressing Iran’s “efficient and constructive role” for security in the Gulf.
“We want the world to know the importance of security of this region and the Islamic Republic’s undeniable role in this regard,” he said.
“Peace and friendship, security, tranquility and mutual trust are the messages of this war game for neighboring countries in the Persian Gulf region,” the general added.
Sunni-led Arab countries in the Gulf are concerned about spreading Iranian influence in the region and also share Western fears about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Iran had become self-sufficient in producing cruise missiles, Fars reported. Iran often announces such military advances, but some analysts have cast doubt on its ability to deter any attack.