The Iranian navy is in the midst of war games in the Persian Gulf, including a critical region for oil shipping lines. According to the Iranian Fars News Agency, the drill has entered the tactical stage and includes exercises from the east of the Strait of Hormuz to the Gulf of Aden. The Strait of Hormuz is a vital region for oil shipping from the Middle East, which some in Iran have threatened to close if the West strikes their nuclear program.
Iran claims their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, although the United Nations and others have uncovered evidence that points to military nuclear research.
Mark Toner, in comments on Tuesday released by the State Department, addressed threats by Iran against the Strait of Hormuz. “In terms of their comments about the Strait of Hormuz, I just think it’s another attempt by them to distract attention away from the real issue, which is their continued noncompliance with their international nuclear obligations… Obviously, we support the free flow of oil, but I—these are hypothetical, or these are remarks about a hypothetical situation, and obviously there’s an element of bluster to them.”
According to Fars, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the naval exercise is intended to share a “message of peace” to the region and display Iran’s military capabilities and defense in international waters.
The US has avoided significant comment on the exercise. Mark Toner, in separate comments prior to the drill released by the State Department, said, “I mean, Iran has—as every maritime nation does—a right to exercise its navy, and we’re certainly going to do that with ours.”
Toner also noted that the US maintains its own forces in the Persian Gulf. “We remain, for our part, very comfortable with our presence and posture in the Gulf, which we believe engenders security and stability in the region.”
The Iranians held a similar naval drill last year, although tensions between the US and Iran have risen over the past few months over the Iranian nuclear program.
(By Staff, www.themideastupdate.com, December 27, 2011)