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Iran holds annual Gulf drill amid rising tensions with US

Agencies/Tehran

Wednesday، 29 July 2020 01:11 AM

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards launched a military drill in the Gulf yesterday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, at a time of high tension between Tehran and Washington.
There have been periodic confrontations in the Gulf in recent years between the Guards and the US military, which has accused the Guards’ navy of sending fast-attack boats to harass US warships as they pass the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran, which opposes the presence of US and Western navies in the Gulf, holds annual naval war games in phases in the strategic waterway, the conduit for some 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea.
“The final stage of the drill called ‘Great Prophet 14’ with the participation of the Guards Navy and Air Force has started in the areas of land, air, sea and space in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf,” Fars reported.
The Guards, in a statement quoted by Fars, said its naval and air forces would use “missile, UAV and radar units” in the drill. 
The Guards blasted a mock-up of a US aircraft carrier with missiles.
The US Navy condemned the “irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran”, calling it an attempt “to intimidate and coerce”.
Footage of the war games broadcast on state television showed the Guards’ air and naval forces readying for an attack off the country’s southwestern coast.
Speedboats skimmed across the water in formation before ground forces fired cannons and a missile was launched from a helicopter.
The mock-up of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier came into view with rows of dummy fighter jets on either side of its landing strip.
The television then cut to rockets being fired out to sea from the backs of trucks, before showing damage to the hull of the mock-up aircraft carrier.
Another missile fired from a helicopter left a trail of smoke before appearing to smash into the side of the fake warship.
Armed forces were then seen rappelling onto the deck of the vessel, before around a dozen speedboats circled around it.
“What was shown today in these exercises, at the level of aerospace and naval forces, was all offensive,” Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami told state television.
New long-range missiles were fired during the exercises, a spokesman said.
“Some surprise equipment and weapons were used, such as long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking offensive floating targets in the distance,” General Abbas Nilforoushan said, quoted by the Guards’ Sepahnews website.
 The US Navy 5th Fleet criticised Iran’s use of the fake aircraft carrier which first appeared on Monday in satellite images.
“We are aware of the Iranian exercise involving attacking a mock-up of a vessel similar to a motionless aircraft carrier,” its spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich said in a statement.
“The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises, attempting to intimidate and coerce.
“While we are always watchful of this type of irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran in the vicinity of busy international waterways, this exercise has not disrupted coalition operations in the area nor had any impacts to the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding waters.”
She had earlier stressed that “we remain confident in our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves against any maritime threat.
“We do not seek conflict but remain ready to defend US forces and interests from maritime threats in the region.” 
The war games come only days after Tehran accused US fighter jets of harassing an Iranian commercial airliner in the skies over Syria.
At least four passengers on board the Mahan Air plane were injured in Thursday’s incident, after the pilot took emergency action to avoid the warplanes, Iranian authorities said.

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