Iran war games a show of power
Exercises’ timing changed this year
TEHRAN — Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard held war games yesterday in the strategic Persian Gulf oil route, the Hormuz Strait, a show of its military strength at a time when the country’s leaders are depicting President Obama’s new nuclear policy as a threat.
Ahead of the military maneuvers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Washington of trying to dominate the world through its nuclear arsenal and vowed that Iran would not bend before what he called “implicit atomic threats.’’
Khamenei was referring to Obama’s announcement earlier this month of a new nuclear strategy that focuses less on Cold War threats and more on preventing the spread of weapons. As part of the new guidelines, Washington vowed not to use its arsenal against nations that do not have their own nuclear weapons, with the exception of countries that are not abiding by international non-proliferation rules — a caveat the administration said meant Iran and North Korea.
Khamenei’s rhetoric, depicting Washington as seeking to dominate Iran, appeared aimed at keeping up support at home as Iran tries to fend off a new US attempt to win a fourth round of United Nations sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program.
The Obama administration is lobbying hard at the UN Security Council for tougher punishment of Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either a warhead or fuel for a nuclear reactor. The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build a weapon, a claim Tehran denies.
Tehran launched its own push yesterday to try to weaken the US sanctions campaign as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki headed to Austria, the first of several Security Council members he plans to tour in coming days. Mottaki has said he wants to talk with council members about possibilities for a nuclear fuel deal that was originally touted as a possible way to ease the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program but has since hit a dead end.
Iran has been holding military maneuvers, dubbed as The Great Prophet, in the strategic waters of the Persian Gulf annually since 2006 to show off its military capabilities — and serve as an warning of the consequences if the United States or Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iran’s leaders have said in the past that if attacked, the country would respond by shutting off the Strait of Hormuz, the mouth of the Gulf through which around 40 percent of the world’s oil and gas supplies passes, as well as by attacking American bases in the Gulf.
In 1988, the US Navy accidentally shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over the waterway as the eight-year Iran-Iraq war was winding down, and the attack killed nearly 300 people. Iran claimed it was intentional, as a show of support to Iraqis. The United States later paid compensations for the victims.
The three-day war games brought in naval, air, and ground units from the Revolutionary Guard, state television reported. In the past four years, the maneuvers were held in the summer, and there was no official explanation why they were brought forward this year. But the new scheduling came after repeated denunciations by Iran’s top leaders over the past week of the new US nuclear policy.
Yesterday, the military unveiled a new attack speedboat, describing it as an “ultraspeed and smart’’ vessel called Ya Mahdi. Iran also said 313 smaller speedboats with the capability of firing rockets and missiles would participate.
State television later showed video footage of a Ya Mahdi vessel firing rockets at a still target in the sea.