Iran’s six-day military exercises are ending today. The war games, called Velayet 91, were carried out at the Strait of Hormuz both inside Iran’s territorial waters and outside them. The exercise allowed Iran to display the prowess of its naval forces.
In the same region, Iran tested long-range missiles in June 2011 and again in January 2012, and followed up with a large-scale exercise one month later. All of these exercises tested newly developed missiles and defense systems and all were declared successful. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but the Syrian people first came to the streets to protest against Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. Now there is a civil war raging in Syria, and Iran is expanding the dimensions and intensity of its exercises.
In the exercises, which spread over the northern Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman, Iran utilized its warships (including its first home-built destroyer, Cameron), its submarines and its air force. New launching systems and the new Raad anti-ballistic missile, which intercepts medium-range missiles mid-flight, were tested. Various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and electronic-warfare equipment were also tried.
Threat via Hormuz
Half of the Middle East’s oil that goes to the US, Europe and China goes through the Strait of Hormuz. There is no alternative for oil and LPG trade. As the commander of the Iranian navy said, for Iran to close the Hormuz is as simple as drinking a glass of water.
In the 1988 Mantis operation, Iran performed miserably against the US navy. Ever since then, Iran has been determined to upgrade its armaments and war technology. Today it is exhibiting its capabilities as a major threat in Hormuz, declaring that it could leave the world without oil and that if anyone were to try to stop it from doing so, Iran is ready to fight.
The exercises this time were bit different than the others. The Iranian naval command defined the objective of the exercises as “defending the region against potential attacks.” Iran is saying not only that it is threatening the Western world via Hormuz, but that it will confront any possible attack against the region.
Threat via Syria
Syria is the most critical place in the region today. It has chemical weapons and the civil war continues. Nobody knows what will happen to Assad’s top people if the president were to leave. Who is going to form the new regime?
Will Assad try to score a golden goal before departing, or use these weapons internally to preserve his regime? The Patriot missiles deployed in Turkey aim to deter him from using chemical weapons. The problem is to destroy the chemical weapons before they are launched. This is only possible by destroying them at their locations.
It is known that Syrians have massed their chemical weapons at certain locations. In other words, targets are identified. But who will destroy them? Turkey will not undertake such an operation by dragging NATO behind it. But it is possible that Israel could do it as trade-off for its refusal to do its part in the Palestine issue. Of course, that would need US naval support.
Should Israel hit the Syrian arms depots, Iran could activate its own missiles and that in turn would mobilize the Patriots in Turkey. Iran is trying to deter Israel and other countries from intervening in Syria, but in doing so, it is preparing the ground for an even larger conflict.