Iran claims U.S. military drill "not a message"

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 19

By Umid Niayesh - Trend:

The US and its allies held an International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) which was concluded in Bahrain Nov. 13, after nearly three weeks of seminars and training maneuvers in a wide array of maritime operations designed to promote international interoperability, protect global commerce and ensure secure sea lanes.

The area of this year's U.S.-led international drill which was the largest in the three years encompassed about 5.8 million square kilometers of water and included the Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean .

The drill involved 6,500 service members along with 700 civilian mariners from over 40 countries. Thirty-eight naval ships as well as 32 civilian merchant vessels took part in the drill.

While the Islamic Republic is the only country in the region, which has repeatedly announced the U.S. navy as target, some experts believe that the IMCMEX contains a message to Iran.

After Washington announced plans for the multinational IMCMEX in 2012, Iran 's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) ridiculed U.S. claims that it could clear the Gulf waters of mines in case of conflict.

General Mahmoud Fahimi, deputy commander of the IRGC naval forces said, "we have no doubt that the United States cannot do anything in the area of minesweeping in practice."

He claimed that Iran was "a master of mine designing and has an unbeatable capability to mass-produce different types of mines."

The naval commander of the IRGC, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said in May 2014 that the U.S. warships are easy target, claiming his forces could sink a U.S. aircraft carrier in less than a minute.

The statements uphold the hypothesis claim the U.S.-led drill is a specific message to Iran, however the Islamic Republic officials reject the claims.

Iranian MP, Esmail Kovsari calls the claims "psychological warfare and daydreaming."
Kovsari, who is a member of Iran 's Parliament National Security and Foreign Policy commission told Trend Nov. 19 that all world armies hold military exercises and the U.S.-led drill is a scheduled drill which is held annually.

"The U.S. tries to showcase its power however doesn't have courage to directly confront Iran," Kovsari said.

On the other hand, Iranian military expert, Hossein Aryan believes that the IMCMEX is mainly an exercise to confront possible threats from the Islamic Republic's anti-ship mines. Aryan told Trend that the area of the drill is an important oil transfer route and Iranian warships are active in the area.

This region includes three of the six major maritime chokepoints in the world: the Suez Canal, the Strait of Bab Al Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz. Nearly 20 percent of the world's oil transits through the Strait of Hormuz, Aryan said.

The U.S. did not officially announce it but the drill was certainly a signal for Iran which already laid anti-ship mines in the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war and as result several ships were hit, including the USS Samuel B. Roberts in April 1988, Aryan added.

While commenting on Iran 's current naval capabilities, the expert said that protecting Strait of Hormuz and Iran 's territorial waters in the Gulf is under the responsibility of the IRGC, which its tactic in a possible conflict is based on asymmetric naval warfare.

Iran has land-to-sea and sea-to-sea missile as well as anti-ship mines, Aryan said adding the IRGC navy also relies on small speed boats as a part of its swarming tactics.
Commando operation is also among the IRGC's naval warfare tactics, Aryan said.
However Iran 's main tactic is still using anti-ship mines, he added.

Umid Niayesh is Trend Agency's staff writer
You can follow him on Twitter @UmidNiayesh

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