What’s Behind the Iranian Naval Drills

By Max Security’s Intelligence Department

Upcoming naval exercises are the Islamic Republic’s language of choice for highlighting the detrimental impact of a Western military strike on the global economy.

The Strait of Hormuz. (Google Earth)

Iranian officials announced that their armed forces will commence a 10-day naval exercise on December 24, stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden. The announcement comes after several US defense officials issued strong warnings against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, while Saudi Arabia announced its intentions to form a unified foreign policy for Gulf Cooperation States. In addition, Israel has announced increased military cooperation on a number of fronts, including renewed cooperation with the Turkish air force, and large scale anti-missile drills with United States scheduled for the Spring of 2012.

The upcoming maneuvers are meant as a message against the West and its regional allies, who in recent days have increased their rhetoric against the Islamic Republic. Naval exercises, missile drills, and land maneuvers are common forms of response after opponents make provocative statements.

The type of drill is especially significant, as it is set to take place in two of the world’s most important waterways; the Gulf of Aden which connects the Indian Ocean to Europe through the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Hormuz in which 33% of the world’s oil shipments pass through from the Persian Gulf.  The naval exercises are likely aimed at warning the world of the potential consequences of a military attack on the global economy. Iran has often stated that it would disrupt shipping in the Striates of Hormuz in response to an American or Israeli assault on its nuclear program.

The recent statements by US officials constitute some of the harshest rhetoric to emanate from the American defense establishment in recent months, especially in regards to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stating that a military option is now executable. The Saudi calls for a deepening of ties amongst GCC states is likely meant to send a message that were Iran to attack any of the emirates across the Persian Gulf, it would warrant a joint reaction by the entire region.

As such, there is a high likelihood of additional maneuvers taking place in the near future, each meant to simulate the possible consequences of a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. A long range missile test meant to demonstrate the Islamic Republic’s capability to hit Eastern Europe is a probable option.

Despite the recent threats, the threat of a  military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities remains low, save for continued covert action. The United States and its European allies still believe that the option of sanctions has not been exhausted and are likely employing such fiery rhetoric as a means of pressuring the European Union on implementing a hard-hitting oil embargo.

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