Iran to show naval might in Gulf
Tehran, December 22, 2011
Iran will on Saturday start naval exercises in a region crucial for global oil supplies, state TV said, raising concern about a possible closure of the world's No 1 shipping route for crude.
Iran aims to flaunt its military might during the 10-day drill, dubbed "Velayat-e 90", at a time of heightened Iranian-Western tension over Tehran's nuclear programme that potentially could boil over into wider hostilities in the Middle East.
"The Velayat-e 90 naval manoeuvres will start on Saturday and will be held in a 2,000-square km span of sea," Iranian navy commander Habibollah Sayyari told state television. "Velayat" is Persian for "supremacy".
"The drill will display Iran's defensive and deterrent power as well as relaying a message of peace and friendship in the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman and the free waters of the Indian Ocean," said Sayyari.
Echoing the stance of others in Iran's factionalised leadership, Sayyari said Iranian armed forces had the ability to shut the strategic strait through which 40 percent of the global oil supply flows, if ever the need arose.
"Iran's military and Revolutionary Guards can close the Strait of Hormuz. But such a decision should be made by top establishment leaders," he said.
Some analysts and diplomats believe the Islamic Republic could try to block the strait in the event of any war with the West over suspicions it is seeking atom bombs. Iran's arch-foes Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to rein in Iran's nuclear work. - Reuters