Iran held its latest in a string of threats and military muscle stretches in the Persian Gulf on Friday, as an assortment of jet fighters conducted a “show of strength” aerial drill, to be followed by a naval exercise on Saturday.
Reuters described Friday’s event as a joint exercise by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the army. The distinction is significant because the IRGC is controlled by Iran’s Islamic theocracy and often acts on its own to conduct provocative actions, both within and beyond Iran’s borders.
Iranian media claimed the exercise included jets of French, American, and Russian design from Iran’s varied inventory. Iran’s Western-made jets tend to be older models dating from before the 1979 Islamic revolution. An Iranian pilot was killed in August when an American-made F-5 training jet crashed for unknown reasons.
“In addition to a show of strength, this ceremony is a message of peace and friendship for friendly and neighboring countries,” Iranian army public relations officer Col. Yousef Safipour told Iran’s IRNA news agency.
The drill was conducted near the Strait of Hormuz, the strategically vital passage through which a third of the world’s oil passes. Iran has been threatening to block the Strait or launch attacks on commercial shipping if U.S. sanctions intensify in November as planned.
The naval exercise planned for Saturday is said to involve 600 ships. Most of Iran’s vessels are small patrol craft. A naval exercise was held in August to “send a message” to the United States after a fresh round of sanctions against Iran was announced. Iran’s saber-rattling has also been seen as an effort to inspire patriotism and rally domestic political support as sanctions rock the regime in Tehran.
Prominent Iranian cleric Abu-Torabi Fard chose Friday to send a cryptic threatening message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Mr. Netanyahu, you and your intelligence services know well that the time to say goodbye has arrived and what position of strength the resistance of Hezbollah and the people of Gaza are in.”