This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has launched war games in the Persian Gulf, a day after a U.S. aircraft carrier entered the waterway amid rising tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Iranian media reported on December 22 that the IRGC will use combat helicopters and drones around Qeshm Island near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea.
“Hopefully, with these exercises, our enemies will realize more than ever how devastating our response would be to any move by them,” IRGC chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
IRGC ground-forces commander Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said that the drills were “strategically defensive.”
He said while Iran posed “no threat” to any country, it will be ready for counterattacks in the face of aggression.
The annual war games, dubbed The Great Prophet, come after the USS John C. Stennis sailed into the Persian Gulf on December 21 amid repeated threats by Iranian officials to close off the Strait of Hormuz.
IRGC vessels followed the carrier and its strike group as it arrived. There were also sightings of a drone, as well as rockets being test-fired away from the U.S. ships.
Tensions with Iran have been high since Trump’s May announcement that the United States was pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, which lifted crippling sanctions in exchange for Tehran curtailing its nuclear activities.
Iran is a major exporter of oil and a member of the OPEC oil cartel.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has repeatedly warned that any attempt to stop Iran’s exports could cause it to close off the strait.
Earlier this month, Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, dismissed Rohani’s threat, saying that Tehran did not control the Strait of Hormuz.