Posts tagged war games
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday it had successfully tested medium-range missiles capable of hitting Israel as a response to threats of attack, the latest move in a war of nerves with the West.
Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to secure a halt to its disputed nuclear energy program. The United States also has military force as a possible option but has repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new economic sanctions are implemented against Iran.
The Islamic Republic announced the “Great Prophet 7″ missile exercise on Sunday after a European embargo against Iranian crude oil purchases took full effect following another fruitless round of big power talks with Tehran.
Iran’s official English-language Press TV said the Shahab 3 missile with a range of 1,300 km (800 miles) – able to reach Israel – was tested along with the shorter-range Shahab 1 and 2.
“The main aim of this drill is to demonstrate the Iranian nation’s political resolve to defend vital values and national interests,” Revolutionary Guards Deputy Commander Hossein Salami was quoted by Press TV as saying.
He said the tests were in response to Iran’s enemies who talk of a “military option being on the table”.
On Sunday, Iran threatened to wipe Israel “off the face of the earth” if the Jewish state attacked it. Analysts have challenged some of Iran’s military assertions, saying it often exaggerates its capabilities.
Senior researcher Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said Iran’s missiles were still relatively inaccurate and of limited use in conventional warfare. With conventional warheads, “their only utility is as a tool of terror and no more than that”, he said by telephone.
He added, however, that they could be suitable for carrying nuclear warheads, especially the larger ones.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in a 2010 report that all Tehran’s ballistic missiles were “inherently capable of a nuclear payload”, if Iran was able to make a small enough bomb.
Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability. The world’s No. 5 oil exporter maintains that it is enriching uranium only to generate more energy for a rapidly growing population.
OIL MARKETS ON EDGE
Iran has previously threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than a third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes, in response to increasingly harsh sanctions by the United States and its allies intended to force it to curb its nuclear research program.
Fars said dozens of missiles involved in this week’s exercises had been aimed at simulated air bases, and that Iranian-built unmanned drones would be tested on Wednesday.
Iran repeated its claim to be reverse-engineering the sophisticated U.S. RQ-170 drone that it says it brought down during a spying mission last year.
“In this drone there are hundreds of technologies used, each of which are valuable to us in terms of operations, information and technicalities,” General Amir Hajizadeh was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying.
Wezeman said Iran had a large standing armed force, but that its weapons were generally outdated. “And those weapons only get older and older and they don’t have access to new technology because they are under a United Nations arms embargo.”
In his first comments since the European Union oil ban took force, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said sanctions would benefit Iran by lessening its dependence on crude exports.
“We must see the sanctions as an opportunity … which can forever take out of the enemy’s hands the ability to use oil as a weapon for sanctions,” Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program continued in Istanbul on Tuesday with a meeting of technical experts from Iran and six world powers.
The discussions follow a round of political talks in Moscow last month at which the sides failed to bridge differences or agree on a further round of talks at that level.
The experts have no mandate to strike agreements but the six powers – the United States, China, Britain, Germany, France and Russia – hope that by clarifying technical aspects of Tehran’s work they can open way for more negotiations in the future.
Diplomats in Istanbul said discussions were “detailed” and would most likely be followed by a meeting between a senior negotiator from the European Union and Iran’s deputy negotiator Ali Bagheri. Such a meeting could, at a later date, be a prelude to talks on a political level, diplomats have said.
“We hope Iran will seize the opportunity … to show a willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said ahead of the meeting. Ashton and her team represent the six powers in dealings with Iran.
As a priority, the powers want Iran to stop enriching uranium to levels close to weapons-grade, ship out any stockpile, and close a secret facility where such work is done. Iran denies its program has a military dimension and wants relief from economic sanctions before it makes any concessions.
IRANIAN CALL TO SHUT OIL LANES
On Monday, Iranian parliamentarians proposed a bill calling for Iran to try to stop tankers taking crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support the sanctions. However, the Iranian parliament is relatively weak, analysts say, and the proposal has no chance of becoming law unless sanctioned by Iran’s clerical supreme leader.
That is seen as unlikely in the near term given that Western powers have said they would tolerate no closure of the Strait while Iranian leaders, wedded to strategic pragmatism for the sake of survival, have said they seek no war with anyone.
“It’s a gesture at this stage,” said independent British-based Iran analyst Reza Esfandiari. ”They want to emphasize that Iran can make life difficult for Europe and America. I think this is more of an attempt to offset falling crude prices. Financial markets are very sensitive to such talk.”
On Tuesday, the price of Brent crude, which has been on a downward trend for the last three months, broke $100 for the first time since early June.
“A lot depends on nuclear talks,” said Esfandiari. “If there’s no progress and the initiative is deadlocked, then these kind of actions will intensify.” source – Yahoo News
Joint US-Israel drill called off by Netanyahu, to Washington’s surprise
Debkafile’s sources disclose exclusively that, contrary to recent reports published in Washington, Jerusalem – and this site too – it was Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, not the Obama administration, who decided to call off the biggest ever joint US-Israeli military exercise Austere Challenge 12 scheduled for April 2012.
Washington was taken aback by the decision. It was perceived as a mark of Israel’s disapproval for the administration’s apparent hesitancy in going through with the only tough sanctions with any chance of working against Iran’s nuclear weapon program: penalizing its central bank and blocking payments for its petroleum exports.
This was the first time Israel had ever postponed a joint military exercise; it generated a seismic moment in relations between the US and Israel at a time when Iran has never been so close to producing a nuclear weapon.
This week, Netanyahu further orchestrated a series of uncharacteristically critical statements by senior ministers: Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon called the Obama administration “hesitant” (Jan. 15), after which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the Americans to “move from words to deeds” (Jan 16). The underlying message was that the Israeli government felt free to attack Iran’s nuclear sites on its own if necessary and at a time of its choosing. Debkafile’s sources report that Netanyahu decided on this extreme course after careful consideration when he judged the Obama administration’s resolve to preempt a nuclear Iran to be flagging, as indicated by four omissions:
1. Washington has taken no action against Iran’s capture of the RQ-170 stealth drone on Dec. 4 more than a month after the event, and not even pressed President Obama’s demand of Dec. 12 for the drone’s return. Tehran, for its part, continues to make hay from the event: This week, our Iranian sources report, the Islamic Republic circulated a new computer game called “Down the RQ-170.” Players assemble the drone from the components shown on their screens and then launch it for attacks on America.
2. Silence from Washington also greeted the start of 20-percent grade uranium enrichment at the underground Fordo facility near Qom when it was announced Jan. 9. Last November, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned in two US TV interviews (Nov. 17 and 22) that as soon as the Fordo facility went on stream, Iran would start whisking the rest of its nuclear facilities into underground bunkers, out of reach and sight of US and Israeli surveillance.
Barak made it clear at the time that Israel could not live with this development; therefore, the Netanyahu government believes Israel’s credibility is now at stake.
3. Exactly three weeks ago, on Jan. 3 Lt. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, Iran’s Army chief, announced that the aircraft carrier USS Stennis and other “enemy ships” would henceforth be barred from entering the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz . Yet since then, no US carrier has put this threat to the test by attempting a crossing. Tehran has been left to crow.
4. Even after approving sanctions on Iran’s central bank and energy industry, the White House announced they would be introduced in stages in the course of the year. According to Israeli’s calculus, another six months free of stiff penalties will give Iran respite for bringing its nuclear weapon program to a dangerous and irreversible level. source – DEBKA
The IDF staged a surprise drill at its base at the port of Haifa as Iran completed “war games” that included a threat on Israel.
Iran claimed it tested a long-range missile that can reach Israeli bases as well U.S. military posts in the Middle East, but Russia rejected the idea that Iran has the ability to launch the missile Iran said it fired.
Haifa base commander Brigadier General Eli Sharvit, ordered the surprise drill to check the readiness of Israel Navy vessels to depart from port and head out to sea to conduct operation, the IDF said. A majority of the Israel Navy’s operational strength is based in Haifa, which was bombed several times by Hizbullah terrorists in the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.
All vessels at the Haifa base, including missile boats, submarines, patrol ships and other vessels took part in the exercise.
“We must maintain high readiness and preparedness, in terms of the speed of ships leaving port and our ability to supply them, to enable them to function continuously at sea, for operational needs in various arenas,” Brig. Gen. Sharvit said.
He added that operational missions require the “highest fitness and readiness to meet short departure time frames, including logistical support capabilities during and after the departure of the vessels.”
The navy soldiers “fully met the requirements we set for ourselves,” he added, and the drill indicated “the high operational strength that characterizes the Haifa base.” source – Arutz Sheva
Iran’s navy has started a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route that passes through the Strait of Hormuz.
The exercises, dubbed “Velayat 90″, could bring Iranian ships into proximity with United States Navy vessels in the area. “Velayat” is a Persian word for “supremacy” and it is currently used as a title of deference for the Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The war games cover a 2,000km stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, state television reported.
The drill will be Iran’s latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its controversial nuclear programme, which the West fears is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Tehran denies those charges, insisting the program is for peaceful purposes only.
Adm Habibollah Sayyari, the navy chief, said Iran is holding the drill to show off its prowess and defense capabilities.
“To show off its might, the navy needs to be present in international waters. It’s necessary to demonstrate the navy’s defense capabilities,” state TV quoted Sayyari as saying.
Sayyari said submarines, surface-to-sea missile systems, missile-launching vessels, torpedoes and drones will be employed in the maneuvers.
The Strait of Hormuz is of strategic significance as the passageway for about a third of the world’s oil tanker traffic. Beyond it lie vast bodies of water, including the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is also active in the area, as are warships of several other countries that patrol for pirates there.
Iran regularly holds war games and has also been active in fighting piracy. Both the US and Israel have not ruled out a military option against Iran over its nuclear program.
Iranian hard-liners have come out with occasional threats that Tehran would seal off the key waterway if the US or Israel moved against the country’s nuclear facilities.
Iranian authorities have given no indication the strait will be closed during the exercise, and it has not been shut during previous drills.
The US, Britain and Canada announced new measures against Iran’s energy and financial sectors last month and the European Union is considering a ban, already in place in the US, on imports of Iranian oil. source – Al Jazeera