(CNSNews.com) – Iranian state and semi-official media lined up behind the regime this week in a show of nationalistic pride as Iran’s navy began 10 days of war games designed to showcase its “regional dominance” and display its ability to shut off the crucial Strait of Hormuz if threatened.
Naval spokesmen were quoted as saying the “Velayat 90” maneuvers, the biggest ever of their kind, were being held across a vast area from the Gulf of Oman to the Gulf of Aden – waters stretching between Somalia in the west, the Indian subcontinent in the east, and Oman and Yemen to the north.
The exercises would involve warships, submarines, helicopters and the testing of missiles, torpedoes, missile defense systems, drones and electronic warfare equipment.
Navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the drills were intended to display the prowess of Iran’s armed forces and the navy’s defensive and deterrent power as well as its capability to provide security for vessels sailing on the open seas.
Another navy official said the warships had ordered a military helicopter belonging to an unnamed “trans-regional” country to leave the area Sunday after it entered the international waters where the war games were being held.
No further details were given, but the hardline Keyhan daily observed that the only “trans-regional” countries to have deployed military assets in the area are the United States, Britain and France.
Another Iranian news outlet, ISNA, reported that an Iranian destroyer involved in the maneuvers had come to the aid of a Saudi oil tanker which had been attacked by “unknown boats.”
“Iran has made important breakthroughs in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing important military systems over the past years,” ISNA declared. “Iran has repeatedly clarified that its military might is merely based on the nation’s defense doctrine of deterrence and poses no threat to other countries.”
The Fars news agency quoted lawmaker Zohreh Elahian, a member of the parliamentary national security and foreign policy committee, as saying the exercises “indicate the power and dominance of Iran’s Navy in regional waters” and “send an important message to the whole world, especially the colonialist powers.”
“These war games are a warning to the western countries about the closure of the Strait of Hormuz,” she said. “If any threat is posed to Iran, the Islamic Republic is capable of closing the Strait of Hormuz.”
Up to 40 percent of daily tanker-shipped oil worldwide travels through the strait, which is less than 30 miles wide at its narrowest point. Its shipping lanes, one for tanker traffic in each direction, are just two miles (3.2 kilometers) across, making it a highly vulnerable chokepoint.
Iran frequently has threatened to close the strait in the event of a military attack on its nuclear or other facilities.
Earlier this month another lawmaker, Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, said that while closing the waterway was not currently planned, “if threats against Iran come to trample upon the rights of our nation while others use the strait for exporting their oil, then Iran will be entitled to the right to close the Strait of Hormuz.”
An article in Iran Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the official IRNA news agency, noted that the wargames coincide with “British embargoes on Iranian oil and central bank, with threats further sanctions by the U.S. and its allies and even Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear plants.”
“To the dismay of those who are apprehensive of Iran’s intentions to close the strait, the three-kilometer passageways are close to Iranian shores,” wrote Iran Daily chief editor Emad Abshenass. “Iranians do not need military force to shut down the strait. Only sinking a ship in the right place could completely close the strait for a long period and no ship would be able to pass through.”
Abshenass said that even an announcement that the strait will be closed would be enough to cause oil prices to soar, “a situation that could lead to the collapse of the weak economies of the U.S. and Europe.”
“Just think what would happen if the strait was to be completely closed for a longer period? If a ship sinks in the right place in the strait, all the naval powers of the world would not be able to reopen the strait soon enough to stop the collapse of their economies.”