Monday, July 07, 2008

Iran's Revolutionary Guards hold war games

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards began military maneuvers on Monday, news agencies said, the same day the U.S. Navy said it was carrying out an exercise in the Gulf.

The war games were conducted by missile units of the Guards' naval and air forces, the Fars and Mehr news agencies said. They said the exercises, which began a few hours ago, were aimed at improving combat readiness and capability.
The reports did not give details of where the exercise was taking place. The Guards often conduct maneuvers in the Gulf.
Speculation about a possible attack on Iran because of its disputed nuclear program has risen since the New York Times newspaper reported last month that Israel's armed forces had practiced such a strike.
Fear of an escalation in the standoff between the West and Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, has helped propel oil prices over $140 a barrel.
The head of the Revolutionary Guards said in remarks published in late June that Tehran would impose controls on shipping in the Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz if it was attacked.
The U.S. Navy last week vowed Iran would not be allowed to block the Gulf waterway, which carries crude from the world's largest oil exporting region.
The U.S. Navy said on Monday that two U.S. vessels were taking part in its exercise alongside a British warship and one from Bahrain, a Gulf Arab ally which hosts the Fifth Fleet.
"The aim of Exercise Stake Net is to practice the tactics and procedures of protecting maritime infrastructure such as gas and oil installations," Commodore Peter Hudson said in a U.S. Fifth Fleet statement.
Western powers say they fear Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear program. Tehran says the work aims to generate electricity.
There have been repeated incidents in the Gulf in which U.S. ships have come close to skirmishing with approaching boats in the busy waterway.
The Revolutionary Guards is an ideological wing of the Islamic Republic's armed forces and has a separate command structure to the regular military.
The Guards were reported by state media to have held two days of war games in the Gulf and Sea of Oman in February 2007
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