June 22, 2009

Military Exercises in the Gulf

While all eyes are fixated on the continuously unfolding events in Tehran, perhaps we ought to pay more attention to the Persian Gulf. Al Jazeera, Al Manar and the National are reporting large-scale Iranian military exercises in the Gulf and the Sea of Oman. The official purpose of the maneuvers is to raise "the operational and support capability" of the Iranian forces as well as the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the Iranian Air Force. According to Iranian media, the aerial and amphibian "Birth of Light," or Milad Nur, exercises will include “long-distance flights of around 3,600km (about 2200 miles) along with aerial refuelling from tanker to fighter jet and from fighter jet to fighter jet."

The three day-long exercises reflect the Iranian regime's misgivings about the mounting domestic unrest in the capital. During a much-anticipated Friday sermon, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei revealed his suspicions of a foreign role in the protests. Tehran may be wary of Israel, or even the United States, using the current turmoil to attack its nuclear facilities or make an attempt at regime change. The "Birth of Light" is an act of "swaggering", if you will, where Iran shows off its military abilities to demonstrate a potentially staggering cost for any possible act of military intervention or foreign-endorsed domestic subversion.

This is probably the kind of thing Obama had wished to avoid, when he warned against perceived "meddling" in Iranian politics. The Iranian regime is likely to ratchet up the rhetoric and intensify belligerent actions to thwart what it deems a foreign-engineered coup.

1 comment:

Ahmed said...

This is a good example of an underreported story--I had not heard of this. I wonder what the response of the U.S. forces in the region is--whatever Obama's official line is, they must have forces on heightened alert. As to whether the Iranian regime deems the events of the last few days to be a foreign-engineered coup--elements within the regime certainly claim that exercising that old card, but it's not clear to me they believe that since the evidence of an internal uprising including divisions among the elite seems pretty strong.