Iran has beefed up its naval forces, arming them with additional drones and precision missiles with ranges up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), amid rising tensions with the US over shipping traffic through the world oil market’s most crucial bottleneck.
The Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy officially took possession of the new gear at a ceremony on Saturday, state-run media outlets reported. The systems include reconnaissance and combat drones, as well as electronic warfare equipment, truck-mounted missile launchers, and hundreds of cruise and ballistic missiles.
The announcement came after reports earlier this week that US military officials had drawn up unprecedented plans to place armed troops on commercial trips in the Strait of Hormuz. Just last month, the Pentagon announced deployments of additional fighter jets and naval assets to the Persian Gulf region in response to “alarming events,” such as Iranian seizures of commercial vessels.
Brigadier General Abolfazi Shekarchi, a spokesman for the Iranian military, denounced Washington’s proposed deployment of troops on private ships. “What do the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean have to do with America?” he told Iran’s Tasnim news agency. “What is your business here?”
About 20% of the world’s oil supplies, or one third of all seaborne crude shipments, go through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage that connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Tehran typically accuses the operators of detained ships of shipping violations, such as oil smuggling. Some of the vessels have only been released after other countries free detained Iranian tankers.
The new missiles give the IRGC Navy better accuracy and longer range than it previously had available, commander Alireza Tangsiri said. “The cruise missiles can attack several targets simultaneously, and the commands can be altered after takeoff,” he added.
US-Iran tensions have risen since Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. Efforts to revive the agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have failed, despite the change in US leadership when Joe Biden succeeded Donald Trump as president in January 2021.
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