Iranian Navy Begins Persian “Provocative” Gulf Exercise

Iran has launched a three-day naval exercise in the Persian Gulf, Seth Frantzman reported Friday in The Jerusalem Post. Frantzman termed the exercise “provocative.”

Commander of the Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi announced the start of the “Velayat 97″ exercise Thursday. According to Khanzadi, the exercise will be comprised of four elements: a military parade, simulation of a battle at sea, amphibious exercises to simulate the capture of territory from hostile forces, and a show of strength by firing select missiles and torpedoes.

The exercise is to cover an area of two million square kilometers, stretching from the Straits of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean.

Frantzman observed that the drill is taking place at a time of heightened tension between Iran and its neighbors. Iran has laid partial blame on Saudi Arabia for an attack on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces earlier this month. The Islamic Republic has also threatened Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States in recent days.

“Sending its navy to the Strait of Hormuz, a major chokepoint for the world’s oil, is provocative,” Frantzman wrote.

The Post also noted that Iran could be sending messages regarding its intentions toward nearby Yemen and Oman. Iran has been backing a Shiite separatist movement in Yemen. While Iran has ties with Oman, the Gulf sultanate has been more open about its ties to Israel, including hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in October.

Iran has, in the past, threatened U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf. In the summer of 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted a video to his YouTube account warning that “should any war break out, one who will emerge humiliated out of it will be invading and criminal America.”

In a February 2015 naval exercise, Iranian boats destroyed a replica of an American aircraft carrier. During the broadcast of the exercises on Iranian state television, a banner flashed across the screen with the quote, “If the Americans are ready to be buried at the bottom of the waters of the Persian Gulf – so be it.” The quote was attributed to the first leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Brig. Gen. Ali Fadavi, commander of the IRGC’s naval forces, explained in May 2014 that his troops were simulating attacks on American aircraft carriers “because destroying, annihilating, and sinking U.S. boats has and will be in our plans.” The following month, he warned the U.S. to leave the Persian Gulf, saying, “Americans’ removal from the Gulf is one of the basic tasks of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards” and boasted that Iran could destroy the American fleet stationed there in 50 seconds.

In January 2016, Iran seized two U.S. Navy boats and ten sailors after they entered Iranian territorial waters. Khamenei praised the Iranian troops who captured the sailors, saying that they did “God’s deed” and subsequently gave medals to the commanders in charge of the capture.

[Photo: Tasnim News ]