TEHRAN – Amid looming threat of US attack, Iranian armed forces have begun massive military manoeuvres across Persian Gulf with fighter jets of Iran Air Force and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) taking part.
Various combat, tactical, reconnaissance, transport, and tanker aircraft were present at the Friday drills.
The exercises, held for the second day, were aimed at increasing the preparedness of the military units for the massive drills due to be held on Sunday on the anniversary of ‘Sacred Defense Week’, which marks the beginning of the eight-year war imposed by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on Iran in 1980.
Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian warplanes took off from airbase in the port city of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran.
Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi, the lieutenant commander of the air force, said on Thursday the parades send the message of peace and friendship to neighboring countries.
In addition to the jet fighters, 200 frigates and speedboats will also display the country’s naval power during the parade lasting three days.
“The parade will be held to display the strengths and capabilities of the Armed Forces, and to boost unity and sympathy among the Army and IRGC forces,” General Vahedi said.
He praised the Islamic Republic’s role in maintaining the sustainable security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, saying that only regional countries can secure the strategic bodies of water.
The parade is to be held at a time when the US is forming a naval mission, already joined by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, purportedly aimed at protecting shipping lanes in the Middle Eastern waterways.
The United States has been trying to persuade its allies to join the international coalition with the declared aim of providing “security” for merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and other strategic shipping lanes in the Middle East.
Washington moved to set up the coalition after pinning the blame on Tehran for two attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman in May and June. Tehran rejected the claims, saying the attacks seemed more to be false-flag operations meant to exert pressure on Iran.
‘Iran to give broad response to any US plot’
Meanwhile, a top military adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and a senior IRGC general warned the US against any anti-Iran move, saying that the Islamic Republic would respond to any plot by the US from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.
“If the Americans think of any plot, the Iranian nation will respond from the Mediterranean, to the Red Sea and to the Indian Ocean,” said General Yahya Rahim-Safavi.
He said any move against Iran will totally transform the region. “The Americans well know we enjoy a brave leadership and powerful Armed Forces.”
“Our policy is based on creation of peace and sustainable security in the region, and the withdrawal of foreign troops,” the senior general said.
“We hope our ultra-regional foes would know Iran is not after aggression and expansionism, and rather seeks peace and sustainable security,” he added.
Saudi Jets Bomb Yemen
The Saudi-led coalition has launched a military operation against the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah in violation of a 2018 UN-brokered ceasefire agreement.
Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki claimed that the Friday raid had destroyed four sites which were “used in assembling remote-controlled boats and sea mines” and carrying out attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
He also claimed that the port city was being used by the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement to launch ballistic missiles and drones.
In a statement, the Houthi movement warned Saudi Arabia against a dangerous escalation of the situation around Hudaydah. The offensive threatens a UN-brokered ceasefire accord in the Red Sea port, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said.
“The concentrated raids on Hudaydah constitutes a dangerous escalation that could blow up the Sweden agreement,” he said on Twitter. “The coalition will bear the responsibility of this escalation which is also a test to the United Nations.”
In December 2018, representatives from Ansarullah and the Riyadh-sponsored government of Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi reached a truce deal during UN-mediated peace talks in Sweden.
Under the deal, they agreed to the withdrawal of their troops and the deployment of UN monitors to the port city of Hudaydah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
The Saudis have been enforcing a tight naval blockade on Yemen, particularly on Hudaydah, which acts as a lifeline for the impoverished nation, since August 2015, five months after it started the war.
The Friday raid on Hudaydah came less than a week after the Yemeni forces launched retaliatory drone attacks on two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility.
Attacks by 10 Yemeni drones on the key oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais shut down about 50 percent of the kingdom’s crude and gas production, cutting the state oil giant’s crude oil supply by around 5.7 million barrels per day.
Ansarullah has repeatedly warned Riyadh that the continuation of aerial attacks on Yemeni people would draw a harsh response, which would go beyond the Saturday drone attacks.