On August 2, the air and naval arms of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began a substantial, unannounced military drill in the Persian Gulf and strategic Strait of Hormuz. The move followed the latest round of threats and counter-threats between Iran and the United States regarding freedom of navigation through the strait, with Washington warning it will bring Iran’s oil exports to a virtual standstill as part of reimposed nuclear sanctions, and Tehran saying it would close the narrow waterway to all other oil shipments in retaliation. At the same time, the IRGC has tested or deployed new weapons systems that could broaden the range of threats it poses to military and civilian targets in the Gulf and beyond.
FIRST MAJOR DRILL IN THREE YEARS
With the exception of an IRGC Navy review of around 110 speedboats in August 2017, Iran had not conducted a large-scale naval exercise in the Gulf since March 2015. Unusually, it launched the latest drill without any of the traditional domestic publicity. The U.S. Navy noted preparations for the exercise shortly before it commenced, but Iranian military officials did not confirm it until after it concluded. The IRGC called it a scheduled exercise on “controlling and monitoring the strait,” with the aim of showing Iran’s readiness to proportionally counter “any hostile act” in the Gulf.
Few details have been released on the nature of the four-day drill, though U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters on August 8 that its scope was in line with past large-scale exercises. He called it a “warning” to the United States, noting that “problematic” Iranian capabilities such as sea mines, explosive boats, and antiship missiles could raise concerns if the IRGCN ever attempted to close the strait.
Read the full article at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.